National News

NBC/WSJ poll: Biden opens up 11-point national lead over President Trump

Posted July 15, 2020 5:44 p.m. EDT

(AP Photo)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead nationally over President Donald Trump, with 7-in-10 voters saying the country is on the wrong track, and with majorities disapproving of the president’s handling of the coronavirus and race relations.

Those are the major findings of a brand-new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that comes three and a half months before the 2020 presidential election, amid a pandemic that has killed approximately 140,000 Americans, and during protests and debate over race in this country.

In addition, the poll shows Democrats enjoying an advantage of intensity heading into November, and it has Trump’s job rating declining to 42 percent – its lowest level in two years.

“The atmosphere and the attitudes toward Donald Trump are the most challenging an incumbent president has faced since Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

But the survey also finds silver linings for Trump and the GOP, as well as warning signs for Biden and the Democrats: A majority of voters approve of the president’s handling of the economy; Biden’s personal ratings have dropped since last month; and Democrats no longer hold a double-digit lead in congressional preference.

“As Americans are coping with the coronavirus and a reckoning on race, politically, there is a great deal of sorting going on,” added Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates. “We are a long ways away from knowing how this will all play out in voters’ minds.”

For November’s 2020 presidential matchup, the poll shows Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 40 percent, which is well outside the poll’s margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

Biden’s lead in last month’s poll was 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent.

In the current NBC News/WSJ survey, Biden’s biggest advantages over Trump are with African-American voters (80 percent to 6 percent), Latinos (67 percent to 22 percent), voters ages 18 to 34 (62 percent to 23 percent), women (58 percent to 35 percent) and white voters with college degrees (53 percent to 38 percent).

Trump, meanwhile, is ahead among all white voters (49 percent to 42 percent), men (45 percent to 43 percent) and whites without college degrees (57 percent to 35 percent).

And in the combined 11 battleground states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – Biden leads Trump by 12 points, 52 percent to 40 percent.

What’s more, half of voters – 50 percent – say there is no chance at all they would vote for Trump (compared with 37 percent who say the same of Biden).

And in a separate question, a majority – 52 percent – say they would be “very uncomfortable” voting for Trump (compared with 38 percent who say that of Biden).

Democrats hold slight advantage in intensity

While more respondents say they’re enthusiastic about voting for Trump (23 percent of all voters) than Biden (14 percent), the poll finds that Democratic voters are slightly more interested in November’s election than Republicans are.

Overall, 77 percent of voters have a high level of interest in the 2020 election – expressing either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale.

That’s the highest level on this NBC News/WSJ question since Oct. 2012.

Yet by party, 80 percent of Democratic voters express high interest, versus 74 percent for Republicans.

“Both parties are going to have very high turnout,” McInturff, the GOP pollster, says of these numbers.

Only 19 percent think the country is headed in the right direction

The NBC News/WSJ poll also shows a whopping 72 percent of American voters believe that the country is headed on the wrong track – a 16-point jump on this question since March.

Just 19 percent think the nation is headed in the right direction, which is the lowest mark on this question since July 2016, exactly four years ago during the last presidential election.

Forty-two percent of voters approve of President Trump’s overall job performance – a decline of 3 points since June.

That’s compared with 56 percent of who disapprove of the president, including 50 percent of all voters who do so strongly.

Just 37 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, which is down 6 points from last month.

And only 33 percent approve of his handling of race relations.

But 54 percent of voters say they approve of Trump’s handling of the economy – his highest mark on this question since becoming president.

Warning signs for Biden and the Democrats

Trump’s standing on the economy isn’t the only potential warning sign in the poll for Joe Biden and the Democrats, however.

Biden’s personal rating in the survey has dropped from 37 percent positive, 38 percent negative (-1) a month ago to 34 percent positive, 46 percent negative (-12) now.

Trump’s rating stands at 39 percent positive, 54 percent negative (-15).

In addition, the Democrats’ lead in congressional preference has declined from 11 points in June’s NBC News/WSJ poll (51 percent to 40 percent), to 4 points now (47 percent to 43 percent).

74 percent say they always wear a mask in public

Finally, when it comes to the coronavirus, 74 percent of voters say they always wear a mask when shopping, working or being around others outside the home.

That’s an increase from last month, when 63 percent said they always wear a mask – with much of the movement coming from Republican and male respondents.

And 57 percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who focuses more on controlling the spread of the coronavirus, versus 25 percent who are more likely to vote for a candidate who focuses more on reopening businesses.

“This isn’t even a fair fight,” said Hart, the Democratic pollster.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted July 9-12 of 900 registered voters – more than half of whom were contacted by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

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