Voters doubt Biden’s leadership, favor Trump, Times/Siena poll finds


President Biden is struggling to overcome doubts about his leadership within his own party and widespread discontent about the direction of the nation, leaving him behind. Donald J. Trump just as their general election race is about to begin, according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

Eight months before the November election, Biden’s 43 percent support trails Trump’s 48 percent in the national survey of registered voters.

Only one in four voters believes the country is headed in the right direction. More than twice as many voters believe Biden’s policies have hurt them personally than believe they have helped them. Most voters think the economy is in bad shape. And the share of voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s handling of their job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point during his presidency.

The poll offers a number of warning signs for the president about weaknesses within the Democratic coalition, including among women, black and Latino voters. So far, it is Trump who has best unified his party, even in the midst of an ongoing primary race.

Biden has swept through the first nominated states with only nominal opposition. But the poll showed that Democrats remain deeply divided over the prospect of Biden, the 81-year-old chief executive, leading the party again. About the same number of Democratic primary voters said Biden should not be the nominee in 2024 as they said he should be, with opposition stronger among voters under 45.

Trump’s ability to consolidate the Republican base better than Biden has unified his own party’s base is clearly shown in the current thinking of 2020 voters. Trump is winning 97 percent of those who say they voted for him four years ago, and virtually none of his former supporters said they will vote for Biden. In contrast, Biden is winning over just 83 percent of his 2020 voters, and 10 percent say they now back Trump.

“It’s going to be a very difficult decision; I’m seriously thinking about not voting,” said Mamta Misra, 57, a Democrat and economics professor in Lafayette, Louisiana, who voted for Biden in 2020. “Trump voters are going to get out.” “Whatever happens. For the Democrats, it will be bad. I don’t know why they don’t think about someone else.”

Trump’s five-point lead in the poll, which was conducted in late February, is slightly larger than in the last Times/Siena national survey of registered voters in December. Among the likely electorate, Trump currently leads by four percentage points.

In last year’s poll, Trump led by two points among registered voters and Biden led by two points among the projected likely electorate.

One of the most ominous findings for Biden in the new poll is that the historic advantage Democrats have had with working-class voters of color who did not attend college continues to erode.

Biden won 72 percent of those voters in 2020, according to exit polls, giving him a nearly 50-point lead over Trump. Today, the Times/Siena poll showed Biden leading only narrowly among nonwhite voters who did not graduate from college: 47 percent to 41 percent.

An enthusiasm gap between the two parties appears repeatedly in the survey: Only 23 percent of Democratic primary voters said they were enthusiastic about Biden, half of Republicans who said they were enthusiastic about Trump. Significantly more Democrats said they were dissatisfied or angry that Biden was the party leader (32 percent) than Republicans who said the same about Trump (18 percent).

Both Trump and Biden are unpopular. Trump earned a weak 44 percent favorable rating; Biden fared even worse, at 38 percent. Among the 19 percent of voters who said they disapproved of both potential nominees (an unusually large cohort in 2024 that pollsters and political strategists sometimes call “double enemies”), Biden actually led Trump, 45 percent to 33 percent.

The candidate who had defeated these “double enemies” was victorious in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

For now, however, discontent with the state of the country is clearly a drag on Biden’s prospects. Two-thirds of the country feels the nation is headed in the wrong direction, and Trump is winning 63 percent of those voters.

The share of voters who believe the nation is on the right path remains a depressingly tiny minority: 24 percent. However, even that figure is a notable improvement from the days of peak inflation in the summer of 2022, when only 13 percent of voters felt the nation was headed in the right direction.

“If we get Trump for another four years, we’ll get a little better on the economy,” said Oscar Rivera, a 39-year-old independent voter who owns a roofing business in Rochester, New York.

Overall, voters viewed Trump’s policies much more favorably than Biden’s. Some 40 percent of voters said Trump’s policies had helped them personally, compared to just 18 percent who said the same of Biden’s.

Only 12 percent of independent voters like Rivera said Biden’s policies had helped them personally, compared to 43 percent who said his policies had hurt them.

Rivera, who is Puerto Rican, said he doesn’t like the way Trump talks about immigration and the southern border, but he plans to vote for him anyway. “Biden? “I don’t know,” Mr. Rivera said. “It seems that we are weak, the United States is weak. “We need someone stronger.”

Overall, Biden and Trump were dead even among prized independent voters, at 42 percent each.

But time and time again, the Times/Siena poll revealed how Trump has managed to penetrate more traditional Democratic constituencies while holding his own among Republican groups. The gender gap, for example, no longer benefits Democrats. Women, who strongly favored Biden four years ago, are now evenly divided, while men gave Trump a nine-point lead. The poll showed Trump outperforming Biden among Latinos, and Biden’s share of the black vote is also shrinking.

Of course, there are unpredictable

The poll showed that 53 percent of voters currently believe Trump has committed serious federal crimes, up from 58 percent in December. But looked at another way, Trump’s current lead over Biden is built on a significant number of voters believing he is a criminal.

Meanwhile, the country remains divided on some of the thorniest domestic and international issues.

By a narrow margin, more voters favor making it more difficult for migrants at the southern border to apply for asylum (49 percent to 43 percent). Trump and Biden made dueling appearances at the border this week; Illegal border crossings reached record levels in late 2023.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas moves into its fifth month, 40 percent of voters said they were more sympathetic to Israel compared to 24 percent who said they were more sympathetic to the Palestinians. Trump was winning 70 percent of those who primarily supported Israel; Biden was winning 68 percent of those who sided with the Palestinians, even as he faced demonstrations and a protest vote over his pro-Israel stance.

Philip Kalarickal, a 51-year-old anesthesiologist from Decatur, Georgia, is a Democrat dismayed by Biden’s handling of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Gaza.

“Joe Biden should do more to ensure that the Israeli government does this in a way that gives them security but without the civilian cost,” Dr. Kalarickal said, adding that he would reluctantly endorse Biden this fall, given that he lives in a inflection state.

“I understand that my vote or lack of vote carries a consequence, and I look at the alternative and that is worse than what is current,” Dr. Kalarickal said. “But I do want to register my displeasure. “The way I vote doesn’t mean I like it.”

Biden’s campaign hopes that more and more voters like Kalarickal will return to their usual partisan patterns in the coming months. The return of such reluctant Democrats is one reason the Biden campaign has been optimistic that the polls will narrow and eventually shift as the choice between Trump and Biden becomes clearer.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s Republican rival, who has argued that she will lose in November, leads Biden by twice the former president’s margin: a hypothetical 45 percent to 35 percent. But she has struggled to gain ground in the primaries and the poll portends crushing losses on Super Tuesday next week, with 77 percent of Republican primary voters choosing Trump over her.

Alicia McFadden and Ruth Igielnik contributed reports.

The New York Times/Siena College survey of 980 registered voters nationwide was conducted via mobile and landline telephones, using live interviewers, from February 25 to 28, 2024. The margin of sampling error for the question choice of the presidential ballot is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points among registered voters. Crosstabs and methodology are available here.

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