CNN Poll: Trump narrowly leads Biden in hypothetical rematch

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CNN
 — 

One year out from Election Day 2024, former President Donald Trump narrowly leads President Joe Biden, 49% to 45% among registered voters, in a hypothetical rematch in the latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Biden’s reelection chances are buffeted by deeply negative approval ratings, a stagnant sense that things are going poorly in the United States, diminished support among key voter blocs, and a widespread sense that he is not up for the job.

In the potential rematch between Biden and Trump, neither candidate has much room for growth. All told, 51% of voters nationwide say there is no chance at all that they would vote for Biden, and just 4% are not currently supporting him but say there is a chance they will. Nearly half, 48%, say there is no chance they will vote for Trump, and only 2% that they aren’t currently backing him but would consider it.

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Biden’s support in the poll is significantly weaker now among several groups that he previously won by wide margins and were critical to his election in 2020. Among voters younger than 35, 48% support Trump, 47% Biden. Political independents break 45% Trump to 41% Biden. Black voters favor Biden, 73%vs. Trump’s 23%, while Latino voters split 50% Biden to 46% Trump. And among voters of color generally, women divide 63% Biden to 31% Trump, while men split about evenly, 49% Trump to 46% Biden.

All of those margins reflect significant declines in support for Biden compared with 2020 exit polls. While those who actually turn out to vote are not the same as registered voters, and with a full year to go before the election, there is time for voters’ views to shift, the differences between then and now are stark. Biden won voters younger than 35 by 21 points nationally, independents by 13 points, Black voters by 75 points and Latino voters by 33 points. Among voters of color, he won both women and men by wide margins: women by 53 points, men by 34.

Just a quarter of Americans (25%) say Biden has the stamina and sharpness to serve effectively as president, while 53% feel Trump does. Only about half of Democrats (51%) say Biden has the sharpness and stamina to serve, compared with 90% of Republicans who say Trump does.

Biden’s approval rating – 39% approve, 61% disapprove – is largely worse than previous modern presidents at this point in their reelection bids. His rating is about on par with Trump’s as of late October 2019 (Trump stood at 41% approval at this point). Jimmy Carter was the only president with a significantly lower approval rating than Biden at this point. One year out from Election Day 1980, just 32% approved of Carter’s work as president – he ultimately lost reelection. And Biden’s job performance currently draws far more intense opposition than impassioned support: 42% of Americans strongly disapprove of his performance, with just 14% strongly approving. Vice President Kamala Harris holds the same approval rating as Biden, 39% approve, 61% disapprove.

The new poll finds 72% of all Americans say things in the country today are going badly. A broad majority have felt that way for the entirety of Biden’s time in office. At best, 60% said things were going badly in March 2021.

Voters who disapprove of Biden’s performance and those who say things are going badly in the country both break heavily in Trump’s favor, 79% Trump to 12% Biden among disapprovers, and 65% Trump to 27% Biden among those who say things are going badly. Those who only somewhat disapprove of Biden’s performance helped to propel Democrats to a surprisingly strong showing in last year’s midterms (exit polls found they broke 49% for the Democratic candidates in their US House districts to 45% for the Republicans, despite their qualms about Biden). Biden does fare better among weak disapprovers than strong disapprovers in the new poll, but he still lags behind Trump with these voters (46% Trump to 40% Biden).

Biden trails former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in a hypothetical matchup between the two – 49% of registered voters back Haley, 43% Biden – and is also behind in a matchup with Trump as the GOP nominee where two declared independent candidates are included: 41% Trump, 35% Biden, 16% Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and 4% Cornel West, although that level of support for candidates outside of the two main parties has rarely materialized when actual votes are cast. A hypothetical matchup between Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in next year’s contest is much closer with no clear leader, 48% DeSantis to 46% Biden.

Primary matchups for both parties suggest a Biden vs. Trump election is the most likely scenario as of now. Trump holds 61% to DeSantis’ 17% and Haley’s 10% on the GOP side, with no other candidate in double digits among Republican-aligned voters. Biden stands 60 points ahead of his newest challenger, with 71% support among Democratic-aligned voters to Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips’ 11% and author Marianne Williamson at 8%.

Trump’s narrow advantage over Biden comes even as public perceptions of the former president remain deeply negative. But the poll suggests Biden’s image is even worse, and those with negative views of both candidates break in Trump’s favor.

When asked if each of them is more a part of the problem or more a part of the solution in dealing with the nation’s issues, 61% of all Americans say Biden is more a part of the problem, and 57% that Trump is. Independents are a touch more likely to see Biden than Trump as part of the problem, 67% vs. 63%.

Both Biden and Trump have favorability ratings that are deeply underwater: 36% favorable vs. 59% unfavorable for Biden, 38% favorable vs. 56% unfavorable for Trump.

Among the 19% of registered voters who see both Biden and Trump as part of the problem, 46% say they’d vote Trump, 34% Biden and 17% for someone else. Likewise, the 18% of registered voters who have unfavorable views of both Biden and Trump split 44% Trump, 35% Biden and 17% for someone else.

Assessing each man’s attributes, the poll finds that those the public sees as Biden’s greatest weaknesses are also perceived as Trump’s biggest strengths (having the stamina and sharpness to serve, 25% Biden to 53% Trump, along with being an effective world leader, 36% Biden vs. 48% Trump). And likewise, Trump’s weaknesses appear to be among Biden’s strengths (51% say Biden respects the rule of law compared with just 35% who say Trump does, and 42% say Biden is honest and trustworthy while only 33% feel the same way about Trump). Both candidates, though, fall far short on being someone Americans would be proud to have as president: Just 33% say they feel that way about Biden, 38% about Trump.

As of now, Republican-aligned voters appear to be more motivated to vote than Democratic-aligned voters and to express significantly more intense feelings about Biden. All told, 71% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they are extremely motivated to vote in next year’s presidential election vs. 61% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters. And Republicans are about 50 points likelier to strongly disapprove of Biden’s job performance (82%) than Democrats are to strongly approve (30%).

Voters are evenly divided over whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the candidates they have to choose from next year, 50% land on each side. Republicans are far more satisfied than Democrats (67% satisfied vs. 44% among Democrats), with independents largely unsatisfied (just 33% are satisfied with their choices). Among Democratic-aligned voters, younger voters are less satisfied than older ones (34% satisfied among those younger than 45 vs. 46% among those 45 and older), but there is no equivalent age gap among Republican-aligned voters (65% younger than 45 are satisfied as are 64% of those age 45 and up).

Amid all of these signs of dampened enthusiasm, Biden’s campaign has argued they have a year to tout the president’s accomplishments and rally their base, but the poll suggests they start at a significant disadvantage.

The economy appears to be a prominent issue heading in to next year’s election, with 66% of registered voters saying it will be extremely important to their vote next year. Half or more say that election integrity and voting rights (57%),  gun policy (52%),  crime (52%) and immigration (50%) are that important. Fewer cite foreign policy (43%), abortion (42%), climate change (31%) or policies toward transgender people (17%).

As in the past few election cycles, there are broad differences between the issues Democratic voters call important and those central for Republican voters. For Republicans, the economy (81% extremely important among Republican-aligned voters vs. 50% extremely important among Democratic-aligned voters), immigration (73% vs. 30%), crime (66% vs. 39%) and foreign policy (55% vs. 33%) are deemed significantly more important than for Democrats, while those on the Democratic side are significantly more likely than those aligned with the GOP to call abortion (51% to 33%), climate change (51% to 11%) and gun policy (59% to 47%) top concerns. Despite its prominence in the rhetoric around the GOP primary thus far, very few consider policies toward transgender people deeply important to their vote, and more Democratic-aligned voters say it is that important than do Republicans (24% to 9%).

The only issue tested in the poll where both sides agree on its importance is voting rights and election integrity (60% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters call it extremely important, 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say the same). Most Americans, 54%, say American democracy is under attack. And as in prior CNN polling, that view is more widespread among Republicans (64% feel that way) than Democrats (50%).

More broadly speaking, 72% of Americans say there are important differences between the parties, while 28% say they are pretty much the same. Independents are less apt to see critical differences (54% say so while 45% say that the parties are pretty much the same), and Republicans are a bit more likely than Democrats to say there are important differences (84% vs. 79%). Those voters who see “important differences” split almost evenly between Biden and Trump in general election preferences (49% Trump to 47% Biden) while the “pretty much the same” group breaks for Trump (50% Trump to 39% Biden, 8% other).

The poll’s result on a generic congressional ballot is near even with no clear leader: 48% say they would vote for the Republican in their district to 47% for the Democrat. Notably, those voters younger than 35 break broadly to Democrats on this question, 56% back the Democrat, 37% the Republican.

More Americans see Republican leaders in Congress as part of the problem in dealing with the nation’s top issues than say the same of Democratic leaders in Congress (63% see GOP leaders as part of the problem vs. 58% for Democratic leaders). And the House’s new speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, begins his tenure largely unknown (52% have never heard of him or have no opinion), and with an underwater favorability rating among those who do have an opinion (20% favorable to 27% unfavorable).

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from October 27-November 2 among a random national sample of 1,514 adults drawn from a probability-based panel. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. For results among the 1,271 registered voters surveyed, the error margin is plus or minus 3.3 points.

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