Not since Theodore Roosevelt ran against William Howard Taft in 1912 have voters gotten the opportunity to weigh the records of two men who have done the job of president.

And despite holding intensely and similarly critical opinions both of President Biden and of his predecessor, Americans have much more positive views of Donald J. Trump’s policies than they do of Mr. Biden’s, according to New York Times/Siena College polls.

Overall, 40 percent of voters said Mr. Trump’s policies had helped them personally, compared with just 18 percent who say the same about Mr. Biden’s policies. Instead, 43 percent of voters said Mr. Biden’s policies had hurt them, nearly double the share who said the same about Mr. Trump’s policies, the latest Times/Siena poll found.

That presidents are frequently remembered more fondly once they leave office is nothing new. In a retrospective look at nine of the past 11 presidents, approval of job performance increased 12 percentage points after leaving office, both on average and for Mr. Trump in particular, according to a Gallup poll from June.

But recent Times/Siena polls highlight how comparatively well-regarded Mr. Trump’s policies are, even by groups that were affected by policies that Democrats hope will be motivating issues in 2024. And for many, it appears to be all about the economy.

Women are 20 percentage points more likely to say that Mr. Trump’s policies have helped them than Mr. Biden’s have, despite the fact that Mr. Trump installed Supreme Court justices who ultimately overturned the right to an abortion and that about two-thirds of women in America think that abortion should be legal in all or most instances.

Overall, the share of women who think Mr. Trump’s policies have helped them stands at 39 percent, with 26 percent saying his policies hurt them and 34 percent saying they didn’t make much of a difference.

In polls of six key battleground states in October, 42 percent of women said abortion should always be legal; among that group, two-thirds said Mr. Trump’s policies had hurt them. But women who thought abortion should be more limited — including those who said abortion should be mostly legal — were far more likely to say Mr. Trump’s policies helped them than hurt them.

“I like his policies,” said Nadeen Geller, 57, a homemaker who lives on Staten Island, N.Y., and plans to vote for Mr. Trump. “I think they work.”

“I think economically he can do wonders,” added Ms. Geller, who is in favor of keeping abortion legal before 15 weeks of pregnancy, and later for health reasons. “I just all around think he can do very well for this country.”

Views of the economy are deeply intertwined with views of the candidates’ policies. And while Republicans almost universally view the economy as bad, Democrats are more evenly split. Of the voters who said the economy was in excellent or good shape, large shares also said they had felt positive impacts of Mr. Biden’s policies. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who think the economy is fair or poor are more likely to say Mr. Biden’s policies have hurt them or haven’t made much of a difference.

Another of Mr. Trump’s early signature policies, his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, was opposed by two-thirds of Hispanic voters, according to exit polls taken during the 2016 election. It was part of a suite of policies, including a ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, that helped fuel large turnout by Democratic voters and sweeping victories for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.

Now, 37 percent of Hispanic voters said Mr. Trump’s policies helped them personally, compared with 15 percent who said this about Mr. Biden’s policies.

“Cash was flowing with Trump, even through the Covid years toward the end of his term,” said Henry Perez, 50, who lives in California’s Central Valley. He voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but switched to Mr. Biden in 2020 because, as a union member, he was not thrilled with Mr. Trump’s policies toward unions.

Mr. Perez plans to vote for Mr. Trump again this fall, partly because of the economy.

“Just go to the pump and go to the store — that will tell you everything you need to know about how Biden’s policies have hurt me,” he said.

Black voters were the least likely to say Mr. Trump’s policies helped them, but they still viewed Mr. Trump’s policies more favorably than Mr. Biden’s.

Gameli Fenuku, a 22-year-old student in Richmond, Va., is planning to vote for Mr. Biden — mainly because “he said he was going to be making college more affordable for students.” But he said that Mr. Biden’s policies had hurt him overall, and that Mr. Trump’s had helped.

“I don’t want to say it was just because he was president, but everything was definitely cheaper,” Mr. Fenuku said of Mr. Trump, adding, “We weren’t just handing out money to other countries.” He said he would consider voting for Mr. Trump, an attitude that was once a rarity among young Black men like Mr. Fenuku but has become more prevalent in recent polls.

Mr. Biden’s student loan policies were also cited by Mary Turak, 64, a nurse living in Pittsburgh. Ms. Turak, a Democrat, said that the people around her were “more financially secure” under Mr. Biden, with new jobs, better pay and less student loan debt.

“One of my daughters got hers completely forgiven,” Ms. Turak said, adding, “I’ve still got another daughter with some student debt that looks like it’s probably going to get forgiven at some level.”

But overall, across gender, age, race and education, voters were more likely to say that Mr. Biden’s time in office had hurt more than helped.

“He’s not really taking care at home,” said Jonathan Jones, 35, of Plant City, Fla., citing the wars and the economy as reasons he disapproves of Mr. Biden’s policies.

Mr. Jones, who used to work in manufacturing and now takes care of his mother, voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 but plans to vote for Mr. Trump in 2024.

“Even though Donald Trump gets on my nerves sometimes with his comments, he really was helping the people,” Mr. Jones said. “Whether it was food, housing, gas, to jobs.”

For the candidates’ own supporters, views of their policies seem to match their enthusiasm gap. Half of Mr. Biden’s 2020 supporters said his policies have not made much of a difference for them either way. The vast majority of Mr. Trump’s 2020 supporters said that his policies had helped them.

In fact, among the small number of Mr. Biden’s 2020 supporters who said they planned to vote for Mr. Trump this fall, nearly 60 percent said Mr. Biden’s policies had hurt them. Only a handful said his policies had helped them.

Mr. Biden is, however, winning among the sizable groups of voters who say that either his policies or Mr. Trump’s have not made much of a difference.

And going back to that race in 1912, who did voters end up choosing? Neither Taft, the incumbent, nor Roosevelt, his predecessor and challenger. Woodrow Wilson defeated both of them.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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