Voters favor the former vice president on the issues of the coronavirus pandemic, law enforcement, the Supreme Court, foreign policy and bringing the country together.
(CN) — Most U.S. voters believe the 2020 election is of the utmost importance, and a majority prefer Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump on most major issues and key personality traits, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Friday.
During the last week of September and first week of October, the nonpartisan polling nonprofit asked 11,929 U.S. adults — 10,543 of which were registered voters — how they felt about the presidential candidates.
The researchers found that 52% of registered voters said they would vote for Biden or lean that direction, while only 42% said the same of Trump. Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen had the support of 4% of the voters polled, and 1% said they supported the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins.
But everyone agrees that they are about to participate in a historically important election. Almost four-fifths of all voters (78%) say it “really matters” who wins the race; 89% of Trump supporters say the U.S. will suffer “lasting harm” if Biden wins, a share just barely beat by Biden’s supporters, 90% of whom have the same grim outlook about a Trump reelection.
The economy is an issue slightly in Trump’s favor in voters’ eyes: 52% expressed at least some amount of confidence in Trump’s ability to make good economic decisions, though 51% of voters said the same about Biden’s economic policymaking skill.
At 35%, more voters agree that the U.S. economy is “excellent” or “good” compared to the 28% of voters who said the same in a June survey, but these voters are almost all Trump supporters. Two-thirds of Trump’s base say the economy is going well, a sizable bump from June’s 51%. Only 9% of Biden’s base said the same in June, and this number has climbed to only 11% in the four months since.
Voters also consider Trump more favorably in terms of his capacity to stand for what he believes in: 69% say that this describes him “fairly” or “very well,” while only 61% say the same of Biden. Exactly half of the respondents described the Republican incumbent as “mentally sharp,” a slight lead over the 46% of voters who said the same of Biden.
But in almost every other measure, voters rate the Democratic challenger more favorably.
Two-thirds of voters called Biden “compassionate,” while only one-third said this of Trump. More than half of voters (54%) called Biden “a good role model,” compared to 28% who said the same of the Republican incumbent.
Only four in 10 voters said they were “somewhat” or “very confident” that Trump could handle the coronavirus pandemic’s public health impact, while Biden enjoyed the confidence of 57% of the registered voters polled.
The survey had not yet concluded when Trump announced on Oct. 2 that he and First Lady Melania Trump had come down with Covid-19, but the pollsters note “no significant differences in voter preferences, or in confidence in the two candidates to handle the impact of the coronavirus, before and after [Trump’s] announcement.”
Biden also beats Trump on the issues of law enforcement and criminal justice (49% to 45%), Supreme Court nominees (55% to 49%), foreign policy (54% to 45%) and uniting the country (50% to 30%).
As ever, Trump enjoys stronger support among his backers than Biden does. Only 57% of Biden’s supporters say they do so strongly, while 68% of Trump’s supporters describe themselves as enthusiastically backing their candidate.
This may be, as the data suggests, because voters view this election as a referendum on the Trump presidency. Biden’s supporters were asked if they viewed their vote as an expression of support for the former vice president or as a vote against Trump, and 63% opted for the latter explanation. Meanwhile, 71% of Trump’s supporters say their choice is a vote for the president, rather than one against Biden.
Registered voters recognize the divergence between the candidates’ bases. Poll respondents were asked whether they “share a fundamental commitment to the same core American values” with the opposite candidate’s supporters, or if “we fundamentally disagree about core American values.”
Biden voters’ views nearly identically matched Trump voters’ on this question: about four-fifths of registered voters, no matter who they support, said they disagree with the other side on fundamental value questions. A slim minority of Biden voters, 18%, said they share a fundamental commitment to American values with Trump voters. Just 22% of Trump voters agreed.
These results come from the answers of respondents who were pulled from Pew’s American Trends Panel, a pool of more than 15,000 randomly selected panelists who participate in surveys over self-administered web surveys. Interviews are performed in Spanish and English, panelists without home internet access are provided with a tablet and a wireless connection, and the data is weighted along dimensions such as party affiliation, race, education attainment and religious affiliation.
The poll’s data was collected between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5. The sampling error for the full sample of 11,929 adults, including those not registered to vote, is 1.5 percentage points. This survey’s methodology is available on the Pew website.