President Biden is struggling to overcome doubts about his leadership inside his own party and broad dissatisfaction over the nation’s direction, leaving him trailing behind Donald J. Trump just as their general-election contest is about to begin, a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College has found.

With eight months left until the November election, Mr. Biden’s 43 percent support lags behind Mr. Trump’s 48 percent in the national survey of registered voters.

Only one in four voters think the country is moving in the right direction. More than twice as many voters believe Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them as believe his policies have helped them. A majority of voters think the economy is in poor condition. And the share of voters who strongly disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of his job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency.

The poll offers an array of warning signs for the president about weaknesses within the Democratic coalition, including among women, Black and Latino voters. So far, it is Mr. Trump who has better unified his party, even amid an ongoing primary contest.

Mr. Biden has marched through the early nominating states with only nominal opposition. But the poll showed that Democrats remain deeply divided about the prospect of Mr. Biden, the 81-year-old chief executive, leading the party again. About as many Democratic primary voters said Mr. Biden should not be the nominee in 2024 as said he should be — with opposition strongest among voters younger than 45 years old.

Mr. Trump’s ability to consolidate the Republican base better than Mr. Biden has unified the base of his own party shows up starkly in the current thinking of 2020 voters. Mr. Trump is winning 97 percent of those who say they voted for him four years ago, and virtually none of his past supporters said they are casting a ballot for Mr. Biden. In contrast, Mr. Biden is winning only 83 percent of his 2020 voters, with 10 percent saying they now back Mr. Trump.

“It’s going to be a very tough decision — I’m seriously thinking about not voting,” said Mamta Misra, 57, a Democrat and an economics professor in Lafayette, La., who voted for Mr. Biden in 2020. “Trump voters are going to come out no matter what. For Democrats, it’s going to be bad. I don’t know why they’re not thinking of someone else.”

Mr. Trump’s five-point lead in the survey, which was conducted in late February, is slightly larger than in the last Times/Siena national poll of registered voters in December. Among the likely electorate, Mr. Trump currently leads by four percentage points.

In last year’s survey, Mr. Trump led by two points among registered voters and Mr. Biden led by two points among the projected likely electorate.

One of the more ominous findings for Mr. Biden in the new poll is that the historical edge Democrats have held with working-class voters of color who did not attend college continues to erode.

Mr. Biden won 72 percent of those voters in 2020, according to exit polling, providing him with a nearly 50-point edge over Mr. Trump. Today, the Times/Siena poll showed Mr. Biden only narrowly leading among nonwhite voters who did not graduate from college: 47 percent to 41 percent.

An excitement gap between the two parties shows up repeatedly in the survey: Only 23 percent of Democratic primary voters said they were enthusiastic about Mr. Biden — half the share of Republicans who said they were about Mr. Trump. Significantly more Democrats said they were either dissatisfied or angry at Mr. Biden being the leader of the party (32 percent) than Republicans who said the same about Mr. Trump (18 percent).

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are unpopular. Mr. Trump had a weak 44 percent favorable rating; Mr. Biden fared even worse, at 38 percent. Among the 19 percent of voters who said they disapproved of both likely nominees — an unusually large cohort in 2024 that pollsters and political strategists sometimes call “double haters” — Mr. Biden actually led Mr. Trump, 45 percent to 33 percent.

The candidate who had won such “double haters” was victorious in the elections in both 2016 and 2020.

For now, though, unhappiness with the state of the country is plainly a drag on Mr. Biden’s prospects. Two-thirds of the country feels the nation is headed in the wrong direction — and Mr. Trump is winning 63 percent of those voters.

The share of voters who believe the nation is on the right track remains a dismal and diminutive minority at 24 percent. Yet even that figure is a marked improvement from the peak inflationary days in the summer of 2022, when only 13 percent of voters felt the nation was headed in the proper direction.

“If we get Trump for another four years, we get a little better on economics,” said Oscar Rivera, a 39-year-old independent voter who owns a roofing business in Rochester, N.Y.

Mr. Trump’s policies were generally viewed far more favorably by voters than Mr. Biden’s. A full 40 percent of voters said Mr. Trump’s policies had helped them personally, compared to only 18 percent who said the same of Mr. Biden’s.

Only 12 percent of independent voters like Mr. Rivera said Mr. Biden’s policies had personally helped them, compared to 43 percent who said his policies had hurt them.

Mr. Rivera, who is Puerto Rican, said he doesn’t like the way Mr. Trump talks about immigration and the southern border, but is planning to vote for him anyway. “Biden? I don’t know,” Mr. Rivera said. “It looks like we’re weak, America’s weak. We need someone stronger.”

Overall, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump were dead even among prized independent voters, drawing 42 percent each.

But over and over, the Times/Siena poll revealed how Mr. Trump has cut into more traditional Democratic constituencies while holding his ground among Republican groups. The gender gap, for instance, is no longer benefiting Democrats. Women, who strongly favored Mr. Biden four years ago, are now equally split, while men gave Mr. Trump a nine-point edge. The poll showed Mr. Trump edging out Mr. Biden among Latinos, and Mr. Biden’s share of the Black vote is shrinking, too.

There are, of course, unpredictable X factors in a race where the Republican front-runner is facing four indictments, 91 felony counts and a criminal trial set to begin at the end of March in New York State Supreme Court.

The poll showed that 53 percent of voters currently believe Mr. Trump has committed serious federal crimes, down from 58 percent in December. But viewed another way, Mr. Trump’s current lead over Mr. Biden is built with a significant number of voters who believe he is a criminal.

The country, meanwhile, remains divided on some of the thorniest domestic and international issues.

By a narrow margin, more voters favor making it more difficult for migrants at the southern border to seek asylum (49 percent to 43 percent). Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden made dueling appearances at the border this week; illegal border crossings set record highs at the end of 2023.

As the Israel-Hamas conflict rages in its fifth month, 40 percent of voters said they sympathized more with Israel compared to 24 percent who said they sympathized more with the Palestinians. Mr. Trump was winning 70 percent of those who backed Israel primarily; Mr. Biden was winning 68 percent of those who sided with the Palestinians, even as he has faced demonstrations and a protest vote over his pro-Israel stance.

Philip Kalarickal, a 51-year-old anesthesiologist in Decatur, Ga., is a Democrat dismayed by Mr. Biden’s handling of the humanitarian fallout from the conflict in Gaza.

“Joe Biden should be doing more to ensure that the Israeli government goes about this in a way that provides safety for them but without the civilian toll,” Dr. Kalarickal said, adding that he would reluctantly back Mr. Biden this fall, given that he lives in a swing state.

“I understand that my vote or lack of vote carries a consequence, and I look at the alternative and that’s worse than the current thing,” Dr. Kalarickal said. “But I do want to register my displeasure. The way I vote doesn’t mean I like it.”

The Biden campaign hopes that more and more voters like Mr. Kalarickal snap back into their usual partisan patterns in the coming months. The return of such reluctant Democrats is one reason the Biden campaign has been optimistic that polling will narrow, and eventually flip, as the choice between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden becomes clearer.

Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s Republican rival, who has made the case that he will lose in November, leads Mr. Biden by double the margin of the former president: a hypothetical 45 percent to 35 percent. But she has struggled to gain traction in the primary and the poll portends landslide losses on Super Tuesday next week, with 77 percent of Republican primary voters picking Mr. Trump over her.

Alyce McFadden and Ruth Igielnik contributed reporting.

The New York Times/Siena College poll of 980 registered voters nationwide was conducted on cellular and landline telephones, using live interviewers, from Feb. 25 to 28, 2024. The margin of sampling error for the presidential ballot choice question is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points among registered voters. Cross-tabs and methodology are available here.


Source link

Credit: NYTimes.com

Leave a Reply