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Poll: Biden Takes Double-Digit Lead Over Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, pictured in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday, is leading against President Trump in the latest NPR/<em>PBS NewsHour</em>/Marist poll. [Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images]
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, pictured in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday, is leading against President Trump in the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

With less than three weeks to go until Election Day, Democrat Joe Biden has taken a double-digit lead over President Trump, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

The former vice president leads Trump 54% to 43% among likely voters in the poll. It's the highest level of support Biden has achieved since the poll began testing the head-to-head matchup in February. Biden has never been below 50% in the question in the Marist poll, and Trump has never been above 44%.

Trump won 46% of voters in 2016 nationally, but it was enough for him to squeeze out a victory in the states key to the Electoral College. Biden has pulled ahead in several key states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which were crucial to Trump's victory in 2016. But Trump is within striking distance.

Biden continues to have an advantage with Black voters, Latinos, whites with a college degree, women, people who live in cities and suburbs, young voters and independents.

Notably, Biden is leading in this survey with white voters 51% to 47%. That is extraordinary. Trump won white voters in 2016 by 20 points, and no Democrat has won that high a share of white voters since Jimmy Carter in 1976, when the U.S. was far less racially diverse.

If Biden does, in fact, win that level with whites, it would indicate that a very large wave is building for Democrats up and down the ballot.

Trump's strongest groups continue to be white evangelical Christians, rural voters and whites without college degrees. But Trump's advantage among whites without a degree is down a net of 19 points from last month.

In September, Trump led among whites without a college degree 63% to 33%. That has significantly narrowed this month to a 54%-43% advantage for Trump. Trump won them 66% to 29% in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.

The one group the Biden campaign has to be concerned about is Latinos. Biden is leading only 55% to 37% with Latinos. Clinton won Latinos 66% to 28% in 2016.

Biden's widened lead comes on the heels of Trump's erratic first debate performance, the vice presidential debate and Trump's contracting COVID-19. By a 53%-to-35% margin, likely voters say Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, benefited more from the debates than Trump and Vice President Pence.

Even a quarter of Republicans say the Biden-Harris ticket benefited more or they're unsure.

Trump's presidency seen as a failure

A slim majority — 52% — of likely voters say Trump's presidency has been a failure, compared with 45% who say it has been a success.

Democrats and Republicans have essentially mirror images of how they view this president — 91% of Democrats say Trump's presidency has been a failure, while 93% of Republicans say it has been a success. But with independents, a group Trump won in 2016, 56% say his presidency has been a failure.

Whites are split; three-quarters of Black voters say Trump's presidency has been a failure, as do 53% of Latinos and 62% of whites with a college degree. A majority — 56% — of whites without a college degree, however, think his presidency has been a success.

Trump seen as "incompetent"; Biden seen as "honest"

Americans also largely view Trump negatively. In an open-ended question, respondents were asked to describe the candidates in one word.

For Trump, the word that stands out is "incompetent," while for Biden it is "honest."

To be clear, both candidates have a range of words ascribed to them that are positive and negative.

For Trump, on the positive end, people said he is "good," "great," "successful" and "strong." On the negative side, "incompetent" was overwhelmingly the most common word used, followed by "liar," "failure," "bad," "horrible," "disaster," "arrogant" and "buffoon."

The positives ascribed to Biden, for example: "honest," "confident," "hopeful," "good," "trustworthy" and "compassionate."

On the negative side, voters said: "old," "confused," "incompetent," "senile" and "weak."

Not many persuadable voters

Trump has inspired strong and polarizing feelings in the country. He has just a 43% job approval rating, and 47% of likely voters say they strongly disapprove of the job he's doing.

That means there are few undecided voters. In fact, in this survey, just 5% of voters are persuadable — those who are undecided or who support a candidate but might vote differently.

Trump's advantage continues to be strength of support – his supporters are more strongly committed to him than Biden's — 87% of Trump voters express a firm commitment, compared with 74% of Biden's backers.

Biden leads on who's best to handle multiple issues

Biden has significant advantages among likely voters when it comes to handling coronavirus and race relations, while voters split on who's best to handle the economy.

On coronavirus, likely voters say they prefer Biden to handle it by a 55% to 41% margin. On race, it's an even wider 56%-38% advantage for the former vice president.

On the economy, voters are split — 47% say they prefer Trump to handle the economy, 48% say Biden. That's slightly tighter than the 50%-46% edge for Trump on the economy last month. The economy had been one of Trump's strengths, but since the coronavirus pandemic shut much of the economy down, Trump's ratings have suffered some.

How people intend to vote

Almost two-thirds of likely voters say they think there will be many or some attempts to intimidate or prevent legitimate voters from voting.

Most -- 58% -- are confident the U.S. Postal Service will deliver election-related mail to voters and election officials in a timely manner.

A plurality of voters — 45% — say they intend to vote in person on Election Day. That includes two-thirds of Trump supporters. Trump leads by 27 points with likely voters who say they'll vote in person on Election Day.

But Biden leads 78% to 21% with voters who have already voted.

Those are important factors to keep in mind, as vote tallies roll in on Election Night, as more than 17 million Americans have already voted.

One-in-five voters say they will vote early at an early voting location; a third say they will vote by mail. That includes 43% of Biden backers. Biden leads by 35 points with those who say they will vote early in person and by 50 points with those who say they will vote by mail or absentee.

Views of coronavirus and the president

By a 71%-to-26% margin, likely voters view the coronavirus as a "real threat" as opposed to it being "blown out of proportion." Republicans are split on this question, with 51% saying it's blown out of proportion and 46% saying it's a real threat.

Democrats and independents overwhelmingly say it's a real threat.

Only 36% of likely voters say they trust what they're hearing from Trump on the virus a great deal or a good amount; 63% say they don't trust what they hear from the president very much or not at all.

Almost two-thirds — 63% — say it would be a good idea to impose national mask mandate. That includes almost 9-in-10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents. Two-thirds of Republicans think it would be a bad idea.

Amy Coney Barrett nomination

By a 47%-to-40% margin, more likely voters support Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court than don't. Three-quarters of Democrats oppose, 9-in-10 Republicans support it, and independents are split with a fifth undecided.

But a majority believes that Barrett should be confirmed after the election (26%) or not at all (30%). Forty percent think she should be confirmed immediately, but that's because 84% of Republicans say so.

A majority of Democrats, and a third of independents, think she should not be confirmed at all.

The survey was conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion using live callers. Included are 1,397 adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 1,199 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points and 896 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.