Trump edges out Biden 51-42 in head-to-head matchup: POLL

(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden’s job approval rating is 19 points underwater, his ratings for handling the economy and immigration are at career lows. A record number of Americans say they’ve become worse off under his presidency, three-quarters say he’s too old for another term and Donald Trump is looking better in retrospect — all severe challenges for Biden in his reelection campaign ahead.

Forty-four percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve gotten worse off financially under Biden’s presidency, the most for any president in ABC/Post polls since 1986. Just 37% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove. Still fewer approve of Biden’s performance on the economy, 30%.

On handling immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, Biden’s rating is even lower, with 23% approval. In terms of intensity of sentiment, 20% strongly approve of his work overall, while 45% strongly disapprove. And the 74% who say he’s too old for a second term is up 6 percentage points since May. Views that Trump is too old also are up, but to 50% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Such is down-on-Biden sentiment that if a government shutdown occurs at month’s end, 40% say they’d chiefly blame him and the Democrats in Congress, versus 33% who’d pin it on the Republicans in Congress — even given the GOP infighting behind the budget impasse.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Trump

Trump, for his part, has improved in retrospect. When he reluctantly left office in January 2021, 38% approved of his work as president, essentially the same as Biden’s rating now. But currently, looking back, 48% say they approve of Trump’s performance when he was in office — matching his peak as president. Essentially as many — 49% — now disapprove, down from 60% when he left the White House.

Comparison with Biden may be a factor. Among the 56% of Americans who disapprove of Biden’s work in office, a wide 75% say that, looking back, they approve of Trump.

It’s also notable that Trump has an even split in his retrospective job approval rating even as most Americans continue to reject his assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Sixty percent of Americans instead say Biden legitimately won, and an additional 12% have no opinion; 29% think Biden did not win legitimately.

Election

These views play into early-stage election preferences. A remarkable 62% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the party should pick someone other than Biden as its nominee in 2024; just a third back Biden. Desire for a different candidate is at a numerical high, but also consistent with past results (56 to 58%) the past year.

Who, if not Biden, is an open question. In an open-ended question, 8% express a preference for Kamala Harris, 8% for Bernie Sanders and 7% for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with other mentions in the low single digits. Just “someone else” comes in at 20%.

Trump has far broader intraparty support; 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor him for the GOP nomination, again similar to previous results, and well ahead of his opposition. Ron DeSantis has 15% support, compared with 25% (using a slightly different question approach) in May. All others are in single digits.

Head-to-head in a hypothetical November 2024 matchup, Trump has 51% support while Biden has 42% — numerically up 3 points for Trump and down 2 points for Biden from an ABC/Post poll in February, shifts that are not statistically significant.

There’s even less change from the most recent ABC/Post poll in May, which had the race at 49-42% (again with a different, but comparable, question wording). Still, with Trump inching over 50% — and other polls showing a closer contest — a close look is warranted.

Factors

A variety of factors may be at play. Biden’s poor performance ratings, the extent of economic discontent, the immigration crisis and doubts about his age clearly are relevant. All have been the subject of extensive recent news coverage, focusing public discourse on negatives for the president. Trump, meanwhile, has used his criminal indictments to bolster his base through claims of political persecution and enjoys positive coverage of his GOP frontrunner status.

Question order can be a factor. As is customary for ABC/Post polls at this still-early stage of an election cycle, this survey asked first about Biden and Trump’s performance, economic sentiment and a handful of other issues (Ukraine aid, abortion and a government shutdown) before candidate preferences. That’s because these questions are more germane than candidate support in an election so far off. Since many results are negative toward Biden, it follows that he’s lagging in 2024 support. Nonetheless, those sentiments are real, have been consistently negative in recent surveys and clearly mark Biden’s challenges ahead.

Another possible factor is message-sending. A hypothetical vote-preference question 14 months before an election is predictive of nothing; it’s best seen as an opportunity for the public to express its like or dislike of the candidates. Biden is broadly unpopular and doubts about his suitability for a second term are extensive; wherever they end up in more than a year, a substantial number of Americans today are taking the opportunity to express their displeasure.

In one example of message-sending, among people who say Trump should be prohibited by the U.S. Constitution from serving again as president, 18% also support him over Biden for 2024. Such people seem to be expressing their antipathy toward Biden, not their support for Trump.

In terms of sampling, this survey was conducted using the ABC/Post poll’s longstanding methodology. Demographic results are typical. So are partisan preferences; 25% of respondents identify themselves as Democrats, 25% as Republicans and 42% as independents. Forty-one percent are Democrats or independents who lean toward the Democratic Party; 45% are Republicans or lean toward the GOP, consistent this year.

Additionally, survey respondents who say they voted in 2020 report having supported Biden over Trump by 50-46%, very close to the actual outcome, 51-47%.

Groups

Trump-Biden results are essentially identical among those who report being registered to vote, 52-42%. Some polling analysts focus on this group, even though there’s more than a year to register, an activity on which political campaigns expend great effort. We focus on the general population at this stage to give all adults a voice, regardless of their current registration status.

Even with the public’s general discontent with Biden, some group-level results are notable. Among them:

  •     Biden has just 50% support from members of racial and ethnic minority groups (the same as in May), while Trump has inched up from 32 to 39 to 43% support in this group in this year’s ABC/Post polls. Among Hispanics, it’s a surprising 50-44%, Trump-Biden, albeit with a small sample.
  •     Among 18- to 35-year-olds, Trump has a slight 53-38% advantage (marginally significant at this sample size). Still, that essentially matches what it was in May, and Trump also was numerically ahead in this group (albeit not significantly) by 50-43% in February.
  •     Trump has gained 7 points from May among men, now a 61-34% result against Biden. That’s led by a 15-point gain for Trump among non-college-educated white men, a mainstay group for him, to 79% support.
  •     Americans continue to oppose the U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending the constitutional right to an abortion, 64-30%. Biden is preferred to Trump by critics of that decision by 57-35%. Supporters of the ruling favor Trump by a much wider 81-16%.
  •     Preferences have fluctuated among non-Hispanic white Catholics, often a contested group. They supported Trump over Biden by 63-33% in February; this shrank to a dead heat in May; and it’s back to 66-32% now.
  •     Among people who reported having voted for Trump in 2020, 96% still support him now. Biden, though, retains fewer of his 2020 supporters, 88%. Of the rest, 7% support Trump now (up from 3% in February), with the rest undecided, supporting another candidate or not planning to participate.
  •     Among people who say they did not vote in 2020, Trump has a 57-32% advantage currently. This was 52-31% in May.
  •     Among the 62% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who oppose Biden for the nomination, 16% say they’d vote for Trump over Biden.
  •     The relationship between candidate preference and economic sentiment is strong. Among the 44% of Americans who say they’ve gotten worse off financially under Biden’s presidency, Trump has an 84-12% advantage. Among those who are in the same shape financially — not worse, but also not better off — it flips to 66-25%, Biden-Trump, and is similar among the comparatively few who are better off.

The economy

Candidate-preference results also are differentiated by ratings of the national economy — which 74% overall rate negatively, with sharp partisan differences. The poll probed for details on that sentiment, finding two major irritants: food prices, rated negatively (as not so good or poor) by 91%; and gas and energy prices, rated negatively by 87%.

Not that other ratings are rosy: Seventy-five percent rate the incomes of average Americans negatively. It’s much lower for the unemployment rate, 57% — but still negative, given the dark public mood.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 15-20, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Partisan divisions are 25-25-42%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Sampling error is not the only source of differences in polls.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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