Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest national voting intention poll of 2,000 registered voters in the United States conducted on July 9 finds Joseph Biden leading by 8%. Biden’s lead is 5% smaller than our previous voting intention poll in June, but 1% greater than our same poll in May, and 1% smaller than in April. Altogether, our final numbers are as follows:
Joseph R. Biden (Democrat) 48% (-2)
Donald J. Trump (Republican) 40% (+3)
Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian) 1% (-)
Howie Hawkins (Green) 1% (+1)
Other (Another Third Party / Write-In) 2% (+1)
Don’t Know 9% (-1)
It appears that Joe Biden experienced a surge in popularity in June as a result of widespread disapproval of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, which was compounded by disapproval of the President’s handling of the crisis that followed the death of George Floyd. However, that surge appears to have had its run, and Biden’s national lead has returned to the 7% to 9% range where it stood in April and May.
Similar to how Biden’s voting intention gains in June appear to have subsided, President Trump’s overall approval rating has improved in the past month, going from net -11% approval in June to net -5% approval in July.
Likewise, the enthusiasm gap between both candidates appears to have widened slightly in Trump’s favor in July. Whereas in June 56% of likely Trump voters said they felt very excited to vote for him, this figure is now 59% in July. Conversely, the percentage of likely Biden voters who feel very excited to vote for him fell from 44% to 42%, resulting in the overall gap between the candidates widening by 5%. Despite being a relatively small movement, this change is congruent with Trump’s voting intention and overall approval rating gains this month.
A majority of respondents who indicated they will vote for Biden continue to say they are doing so primarily because they do not support Donald Trump (54%) rather than primarily because they support Joe Biden (46%). On the other hand, 80% of respondents who indicated they will vote for Trump say they are doing so primarily because they support Donald Trump, with only 20% saying they are primarily voting for Trump because they do not support Joe Biden. These figures are virtually identical to our poll in June.
However, Trump’s recovery this month might not be long-lasting given the recent surge in coronavirus cases across parts of the country, particularly the South and West. Indeed, 51% of respondents said the coronavirus situation in the US is not coming under control, compared to only 28% who think that it is.
If coronavirus situation worsens again in the United States, Joe Biden and Democratic candidates across the board may see more Americans supporting them, given the perception that Democrats have been more cautious than Republicans about easing lockdown rules.
Indeed, 66% of Americans continue to think it is not safe to visit a restaurant or bar, and a significant minority of 44% does not feel safe going shopping. In light of this disinclination, President Trump’s push to reopen the economy as quickly as possible is unlikely to be well received by a significant proportion of the electorate.
At the same time, President Trump might find increased support among the 30% of Americans who say think severity of the coronavirus situation in the United States has been exaggerated. This view is shared by 51% of likely Trump voters and 13% of likely Biden voters. However, as the situation deteriorates in many states, it is quite possible that some voters will reassess their views on this matter, especially if someone they know becomes affected.
In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale argued that one of Trump’s advantages going into the November election is that he is still perceived as a political outsider and therefore does not fall under the traditional conception of an ‘incumbent’ candidate. Our poll found Parscale to be correct in that regard, with 63% agreeing that President Trump is still a political outsider despite his three years as President. This view was held in similar proportions by likely Trump voters (69%) and likely Biden voters (65%).
Likewise, we found that a majority (51%) agree that Biden’s pitch to the American voter is more about returning to how things were before Donald Trump than it is about a vision of a new future. This view was held by 62% of likely Trump voters and 49% of likely Biden voters, again confirming the criticism by Parscale that Biden “is campaigning on a return to the former status quo.”
However, this criticism may fall flat. When asked whether Donald Trump and Joe Biden “represent change,” a plurality of respondents said, ‘no’ for the current President while a small majority said ‘yes’ for the former Vice President.
Similarly, campaign ads that highlight concerns surrounding Joe Biden’s mental health or his corruption may not have had the stinging effect desired by the Trump campaign. On both counts, Donald Trump scores worse among our American respondents.
Moreover, Biden’s many years in politics might not necessarily act against him, as Parscale has claimed. Indeed, our poll found that a strong plurality (46%) agrees that the legislation and political changes that Biden spearheaded as both Senator and Vice President have done more good to the United States than bad. Surprisingly, 26% of likely Trump voters held this view alongside 71% of likely Biden voters.
Nevertheless, with the coronavirus pandemic still impacting the United States heavily, addressing the current crisis is the priority for many voters. On the question of who could lead the country into a stronger economic recovery, the public is split: 38% say Joe Biden is more likely to lead the country into a strong economic recovery, whereas 37% think Donald Trump would be more likely.
Likewise, the question of China still lingers, with 55% of respondents saying China should be held responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, 56% say that the stance of the Presidential candidates towards China will be at least moderately important in deciding who they vote for in November. This importance is likely not only due to a desire to hold the Chinese Government accountable over the coronavirus pandemic, but also due to longer-term issues surrounding trade and outsourcing which affect many voters in key swing states.
On the subject of being tough on China, Trump retains a decisive advantage over Biden, with 52% of respondents saying Trump will be tough on China. Conversely, only 34% think Biden would be tough on China as President. However, when it comes to working with America’s key allies in order to address various issues (including China), 52% see Joe Biden as someone who can work with foreign leaders, whereas only 39% say so about Donald Trump. Therefore, whereas the Trump campaign might find in China a potentially successful line of attack against Biden, the Biden campaign can emphasize his perceived ability to work with allies of the US to neutralize the challenges that China might present.
As we edge closer towards the November election, Joe Biden maintains a commanding 8% lead over President Trump, despite not being perceived by the electorate as significantly more likely than the President to spearhead a strong economic recovery or to be tough on China. Overall, it appears that the coronavirus crisis remains an area where Biden and Democratic candidates retain a decisive advantage, particularly given the way in which the fast reopening encouraged by Trump and many Republican governors appears to have backfired.
Most importantly, as frustrated voters of all political persuasions come to the voting booths in November, the fact that more Americans presently think Joe Biden ‘represents change’ than do Donald Trump will be critical. As many agree that Joe Biden’s pitch is to return to the status quo ante and that Donald Trump is still a political outsider, the President does have the opportunity to look forward, rather than backward, and persuade the voting public that he could still be a disruptive force of change. So far, on this front, he has come up short.