At the moment, however, the former vice president scored a higher net score (the positive rating minus the negative rating) than the president did on all six characteristics.
The traits were:
“A strong leader.” Neither was seen by a majority of Americans as a strong leader, with 45% saying that described Trump and 52% that it didn’t. For Biden, 43% said it described him; 47% said it didn’t.
“Cares about people like me.” Biden swamped Trump when it came to empathy; 57% said it described the former vice president; just 39% said it described the president.
“Knows how to get things done.” Trump fared a bit better. By 51% to 45%, voters said that described him; by 48% to 39% that it described Biden.
“Stands up for U.S. interests.” Biden scored better on what has been a rallying cry for Trump and his troops. By 58% to 34%, those surveyed said that described Biden; by 53% to 43% they said it described Trump.
“Honest and trustworthy.” This was Trump’s worst rating. By more than 2-1, 64% to 31%, those surveyed said that trait didn’t describe him. Views of Biden were better, although not exactly glowing. By 47% to 43%, those surveyed said he was honest and trustworthy.
“Can work with foreign leaders.” Biden was much more likely to be seen as someone who could do this; 64% said it described the former vice president and 45% said it described the current president.
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“The poll is clear about which candidate qualities align best with voters,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “A central campaign theme for Trump will be about getting things done, while Biden will shape his campaign around caring about everyday people at home while working best with foreign leaders abroad.”
The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cellphone Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
A red flag among African-Americans
The findings also had some red flags for Biden, who since the last poll has emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
His support among black voters has dropped in a hypothetical three-way race with Trump and a third-party candidate. Although the sample size is small, making precise comparisons unreliable, about two-thirds of African American voters support Biden now; nearly eight in 10 had backed him in December. Those voters didn’t move to Trump, supported by just 8%. But one in four black voters now say they are undecided or would vote for a third-party candidate.
African American voters in the South Carolina primary and on Super Tuesday were crucial in Biden’s primary victories, and analysts agree it’s imperative for him to generate enthusiastic support among them in November. He has promised to select a woman as his running mate, and some activists are urging him to choose a black woman such as U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida or Stacey Abrams, who lost a bid for Georgia governor last year.
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In the wake of the primaries, Biden has made progress in consolidating support among Democrats; 87% of Democratic voters now back him, and he has been endorsed by his primary rivals, former President Barack Obama and others. He has gained ground among voters under 35, a group that had been more likely in the primaries to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Now Biden is backed over Trump among younger voters by 50% to 25%.
That said, one in four of those 18 to 34 years old are still undecided or prefer a third-party candidate.
“I don’t have anything against Biden; I was just hoping for something different,” said Kate Elliott, 33, a Democrat from Cincinnati who would have preferred Sanders, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana – both of whom have endorsed Biden.
But there’s no question she prefers Biden over Trump, calling the president’s leadership during the pandemic irrational and unpredictable.
“I’ll vote for Biden,” she said, “but with a heavy sigh.”
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