By GARY LANGER
(NEW YORK) — Public preference for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in trust to handle the coronavirus pandemic has soared since March in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, boosting Biden — along with other measures — in the race for the White House.
Three and a half months ago the two candidates were virtually even in trust to handle the pandemic, with Trump +2 percentage points, 45-43%. Today, with COVID-19 cases surging around the nation, Biden leads Trump on the issue by a 20-point margin, 54-34%.
Biden’s also advanced, nearly to par with Trump, in trust to handle the economy, after trailing in March. Biden leads Trump by 9 points on handling crime and safety, a focal point of Trump’s in recent weeks. And on race relations, Biden leads by his largest margin, 25 points, 58-33%.
Biden has his own risks, particularly a pronounced lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. Yet the impact of that deficit remains to be seen: For two-thirds of his supporters, it’s chiefly not about electing Biden, but about defeating Trump.
The president, moreover, has other challenges, ranging from performance assessments to personal attributes. As reported Friday, approval of his handling of the pandemic has fallen from 51% in late March to 38% now, with disapproval up 15 points. He’s lost 7 points in approval of his handling of the economy, to 50%, with disapproval up 9.
Trump’s overall job approval rating is 39% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates — down 9 points in the course of the pandemic, with disapproval up 11. Trump remains the first president in modern polling never to achieve majority approval for his work in office, with the lowest career average on record.
Rising disapproval of Trump’s job performance is broadly based. It’s up 22 points since March among those very worried about catching the coronavirus, to 82%. It’s also up in two of his key support groups, +20 points among rural Americans and +12 points among evangelical white Protestants, to 45% and 30%, respectively. Disapproval also is up especially among Southerners (+18 points); and Blacks, women, moderates and suburbanites, all up 15 to 16.
By partisanship, Democrats now disapprove nearly unanimously of Trump’s work in office, up 17 points in three and a half months to 95%; 56% of independents also disapprove, up 11. Among Republicans, 16% disapprove, up 10 points from late May.
Beyond job approval, Biden leads Trump by 26 points in being seen as having the better personality and temperament to serve as president. In a related finding, a vast 76% of Americans say Trump, in talking about people he disagrees with, “crosses the line in terms of what’s acceptable.” Fifty points fewer, 26%, say Biden does the same.
Sixty-one percent say Trump has done more to divide than to unite the country, more than said so about either of his two predecessors in office. When asked which candidates would do more to unite Americans, Biden leads by another wide margin, 57-33%.
Biden leads by double digits on other personal attributes as well — better understanding the problems of people like you (+17 points), being more honest and trustworthy (+14), better representing your personal values (+12) and having a better idea of what America should stand for (+10). Trump pushes to parity on just one, who’s the stronger leader, an even 45-45% split.
While views are similar among registered voters, Biden loses ground on three of these items among those who are likeliest to vote. In the largest difference, he goes from a 26-point lead among all adults in having the personality and temperament needed to serve as president to a slight 11-point edge among likely voters, 53-42%. He also slips among likely voters in who better understands their problems and who’s the stronger leader.
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