Biden takes the dominant lead as voters reject Trump because of virus and race

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has taken a dominant advantage over President Trump in the 2020 race, building a wide lead among women and non-white voters and making great strides with some traditionally Republican groups that have drifted away from Mr. Trump after of its ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new national poll of registered voters conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

Biden is currently ahead of Trump by 14 percentage points, garnering 50 percent of the vote compared to 36 percent for Trump. That’s one of the saddest demonstrations of Trump’s presidency, and a sign that he is the clear loser right now in his fight for a second term.

Trump has been an unpopular president for virtually all of his time in office. He has made little effort since his 2016 election to expand his support beyond the right-wing base that brought him to power with just 46 percent of the popular vote and a modest victory at the Electoral College.

But among a surprising cross-section of voters, disgust at Trump has deepened as his administration failed to stop a deadly disease that paralyzed the economy, and then when it responded to a wave of racial justice protests with furious bravado and militaristic threats. . . The dominant image that emerges from the survey is that of a country ready to reject a president who the vast majority of voters consider does not pass the best tests facing his administration.

Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by huge margins with black and Hispanic voters, and women and youth seem to be on their way to electing Mr. Biden by an even broader margin than Hillary Clinton favored over the Mr. Trump in 2016. But the former vice president has also teamed up even with Trump among male, white, and middle-aged and older voters, groups that have generally been the backbone of Republican electoral success, including the Trump in 2016.

Arlene Myles, 75, of Denver, said she had been a Republican for nearly six decades before changing her registration to independent earlier this year during Trump’s impeachment trial. Myles said that when Trump was first elected, he had resolved to “give it a try,” but has since concluded that he and his party were irredeemable.

“I was one of those people who stayed with Nixon until he said goodbye,” Myles said. “I thought he was a good Republican and I thought they had my values, but they’ve been overlooked in recent years.”

Ms. Myles said she planned to vote for Mr. Biden, expressing only one doubt: “I would like him to be younger,” he said.

The biggest advantage may be Biden’s big advantage among white women with college degrees, who support him over Trump by 39 percentage points. In 2016, exit polls found that the group preferred Mrs. Clinton to Mr. Trump for just 7 percentage points. The poll also found that Biden has narrowed Trump’s lead with less educated white voters.

The Republican Party’s exodus of white voters has been especially pronounced among younger voters, an ominous trend for a party that already relied heavily on older Americans.

52% of whites under 45 said they supported Biden, while only 30% said they supported Trump. And their opposition is intense: more than twice as many younger whites viewed the president as very unfavorable than very favorable.

Tom Diamond, 31, a Republican in Fort Worth, Texas, said he planned to vote for Trump, but that he would do so with real doubts. He called the president a “poor leader” who had mishandled the pandemic and said Biden seemed “a guy he can trust.” But Mr. Trump had views that were closer to his on the economy, healthcare and abortion.

“Part of you feels disgusting to vote for him,” said Diamond. “But definitely from a political perspective, that’s where my vote is going to go.”

Some concern about Trump stems from the racial attitudes of voters. According to the survey, white voters under the age of 45 overwhelmingly support the Black Lives Matter movement, while older whites are more lukewarm in their views of racial justice activism. And almost 70 percent of whites under the age of 45 said they believed the George Floyd murder was part of a broader pattern of excessive police violence against African-Americans rather than an isolated incident.

What is surprising, however, is that even among white older adults, one of Trump’s strongest groups, he has been harmed by his behavior. About two-fifths of whites over 65 said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and race relations.

Trump retains some strength points in the poll that could offer him a way to regain balance in the race, and the weak condition of his candidacy at the moment may represent his low point in a campaign with four and a half months left to go.

His approval rating is still very positive on the economy, with 50 percent of voters giving him favorable ratings compared to 45 percent who say otherwise. If the fall campaign turns into a referendum on which candidate is best equipped to restore prosperity after the pandemic has subsided, that could give Trump another chance to press his case.

The president is also ahead of Biden among white voters without college degrees, who have a disproportionate influence on presidential elections due to how central the Midwest is to capturing 270 electoral votes.

However, if Trump still has a significant measure of credibility with voters in the economy, he lacks an apparent political force on the most pressing issues of the moment: the pandemic and national recognition of the police and race.

Nearly three-fifths of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including most voters and white men. Self-styled moderate voters disapproved of Trump on the coronavirus by a margin of more than two to one.

Most of the country also rejects Trump’s call to reopen the economy as quickly as possible, even at the cost of exposing people to increased health risks. By a 21-point margin, voters said the federal government should prioritize containment of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy, a vision that aligns them with Biden.

Only a third of voters said the government should focus on restarting the economy, even if that carries greater public health risks.

That debate could become the focus of the campaign in the coming weeks, as coronavirus outbreaks are growing rapidly in several Republican-led states that have resisted stringent blockade measures imposed in the spring by Democratic states like New York and California. .

Nor does the public share Trump’s resistance to wearing masks. The president declined to wear a mask in almost all public appearances, even when senior administration health officials have urged Americans to do so as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. In the survey, 54 percent of people said they always wear a mask when they expect to be around other people, while another 22 percent said they usually wear a mask.

Only 22 percent said they rarely or never wore a mask.

The approval of Trump’s work in race relations was just as sad. 61% of voters said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the breed, compared to 33% who said he approved. By a similar margin, voters said they disapproved of their response to the protests after Mr. Floyd’s death.

Trump has tried several times in the past month to use the anti-police protests as a political problem, forcing Democrats to align themselves directly with law enforcement agencies or with more strident anti-police protesters.

The poll suggested that the majority of voters rejected that binary option, as well as Trump’s harsh characterization of protesters: Large majorities said they had a positive overall assessment of both the Black Lives Matter movement and the police.

The image of Mr. Biden emerging from the survey is one of a widely acceptable candidate who inspires relatively few strong feelings in either direction. It is viewed favorably by half of the voters and unfavorably by 42 percent. Only a quarter said they viewed it very favorably, matching the share that sees it in very negative terms.

Trump, by contrast, is viewed very favorably by 27 percent of voters and very unfavorably by 50 percent.

Harry Hoyt, 72, from York County in southern Maine, said he sometimes voted for Republican presidential candidates in the past and reluctantly cast a vote for Ms. Clinton in 2016. This time he felt better about your plan to vote for Mr. Biden.

“Biden would be a better candidate than Trump, simply because he is a good person,” Hoyt said. “One of the most important things to me is the character of the man in charge of our country.”

Significantly, one group that saw Mr. Biden as more than just acceptable were black voters. 56% of black respondents in the survey said they viewed Mr. Biden very favorably, a much more enthusiastic judgment than that of any other constituency.

Limited passion for Biden among other Democratic constituencies does not appear to be affecting his position against Trump. Although only 13 percent of people under the age of 30 said they had a very favorable opinion of the former vice president, that group supports Biden about Trump at 34 percentage points.

Nicholas Angelos, a 20-year-old voter in Bloomington, Indiana, who said he supported Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, said he would vote for Biden as the “lesser of two evils.” He said he believed the former vice president “would do everything possible,” in contrast to Trump, whom he described as “an autocrat” and “unscientific.”

“We all have to commit ourselves,” said Angelos, who described himself as very liberal. He added of Mr. Biden: “I don’t think it’s anything special.”

At the moment, voters also appear to be unpersuaded by one of the main lines of attack that Trump and his party have used against Biden: the claim that, at 77, he is simply too old for the presidency. Trump, 74, has frequently scoffed at Biden’s mental acuity in recent months, and his campaign has run television commercials showing Biden as distracted and inarticulate.

But three out of five voters said in the poll that they disagreed with the claim that Biden was too old to be an effective president. The percentage of voters who agreed, 36 percent, exactly matched Trump’s existing support in the presidential race.

Lindsay Clark, 37, who lives in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, was among voters who said she would likely vote for Trump because she was unsure that Biden was “physically and mentally prepared to be president.” But Clark expressed little admiration for Trump, whom he called non-presidential.

Clark, who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016, said he was hard-pressed to name something he really liked about Trump, and ultimately settled on the idea that he spoke bluntly.

“I was just trying to think if I could think of something outside my head that said ‘Yes, I loved it when you did that!'” He said of Mr. Trump. “And I just can’t.”