New poll shows Trump's tough path to reelection
The survey, conducted by veteran pollster Ann Selzer for Grinnell College, finds Biden leading 49 percent to 41 percent, on the strength of a huge advantage among female voters, suburbanites and Americans with a college degree.
The Democratic presidential nominee leads among women by a 56 percent to 34 percent margin, a wider gender gap than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received in 2016 and larger even than the 19-point advantage House Democratic candidates earned over Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections when they reclaimed control of the chamber.
Democrats won back the House with the help of suburban voters, who split their support equally between the two major parties, according to exit polls. Trump won suburban voters 49 percent to 45 percent in 2016.
Now, Biden leads the suburbs by a 58 percent to 35 percent margin. Among those suburban residents, Biden is ahead with women by a 64 percent to 31 percent margin, a sign that the most coveted voters in the electorate — the “suburban housewife,” in Trump’s recent lexicon — are rejecting the incumbent.
“Among suburban women, the president’s numbers are terrible,” said Peter Hanson, a political scientist at Grinnell College who directed the poll. “If the president’s coalition is going to consist of non-college-educated white men, evangelicals and seniors, then he’s going to have a hard time.”
Even where Trump is leading, his margin is smaller than it was four years ago. The president is more popular than Biden among rural voters by a 58 percent to 36 percent margin, narrower than his 27-point advantage in 2016.
Biden is performing vastly better among college-educated voters than Clinton did. He leads Trump by 23 points, more than twice the 10-point edge Clinton held before the 2016 election.
Trump’s advantage among voters without a college degree, meanwhile, has dropped from 7 points in 2016 to just 2 points last week.
“It’s really difficult to see the president winning the national popular vote. I just think that’s out of his reach. The only question now is whether he can put together a narrow majority in battleground states,” Hanson said. “That’s his only path.”
A post-convention survey conducted by Morning Consult also found Biden holding an 8 point lead over Trump, 51 percent to 43 percent.
Both Biden and Trump are solid among their respective bases; 90 percent of Republicans plan to vote for Trump, and 95 percent of Democrats say they will support Biden, according to the Grinnell poll. But among voters with no party affiliation, Biden leads 44 percent to 34 percent. And he’s winning over self-professed moderates by a 55 percent to 33 percent margin.
Trump won independent voters by a 46 percent to 42 percent margin in 2016, while Clinton won moderates by 12 points.
Though Trump and his allies have bragged about an enthusiasm gap, there are growing signs that Biden’s supporters are just as excited to go cast their ballots. About three quarters of Biden backers (76 percent) and Trump supporters (74 percent) say they are extremely motivated for Election Day.
Trump has suffered from his administration’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the poll shows. Just 43 percent of likely voters say they approve of the job Trump has done as president, while 51 percent disapprove. Only 41 percent say they approve of his handling of the pandemic.
Still, respondents were inclined to say Trump has handled the economy well, with 53 percent giving him high marks on that front.
But for a president who has asked voters whether they are better off now than they were four years ago, the answer is not as positive: Just 38 percent say the economy is better today than it was at the beginning of 2017, when Trump took office, while 53 percent said things have gotten worse.
Worryingly for an incumbent who needs to improve his standing over the next nine weeks, the vast majority of voters say their minds are made up. Nine in 10 Biden supporters say they will back their candidate, while 87 percent of Trump voters said the same, an indication that few voters are truly up for grabs.
“There are very few persuadable voters, so this race is going to come down to persuading a very small number of minds and then mobilizing core supporters,” Hanson said.
Biden voters are also far more likely to say they will vote before Election Day than are Trump voters.
Just over a third of Biden voters, 35 percent, say they plan to vote in person on Nov. 3, compared to nearly 7 in 10 Trump voters. Thirty percent of Biden voters plan to vote by mail, 12 percent say they will drop their absentee ballot in a drop box and 17 percent say they plan to vote early in person.
Only 14 percent of Trump backers say they will vote absentee, either by mail or by drop box, and another 15 percent plan to cast ballots early but in person.
Both parties have increasingly turned to absentee ballots in recent years as a way to ensure they are banking votes long before Election Day. Republicans and Democrats have spent millions of dollars identifying their core supporters, and it becomes easier for each side to turn out those voters as some cast early votes, narrowing the universe of people with whom each party must communicate.
The Grinnell College national poll surveyed 1,012 adults, including 827 likely voters, from Aug. 26, the third day of the Republican convention, to Aug. 30. The margin of error among likely voters is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.