(CNN) — With the presidential race drawing to a close amid a raging pandemic, Democratic candidate Joe Biden maintains a substantial lead over President Donald Trump across the country, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
Among likely voters, 54% back Biden and 42% Trump. Biden has held an advantage in all CNN polls over the showdown since 2019. And he has held a statistically significant advantage in all high-quality national polls since the spring.
Although the election will ultimately be decided by state results, which are driven by the Electoral College, Biden’s national lead is broader than any presidential candidate has had in more than two decades in the final days of the campaign.
The poll offers no indication that Trump’s four-year re-election campaign has managed to rally him substantial new supporters since his narrow victory in the 2016 election.
Barring major changes in the landscape in the final days of the contest, Trump’s chances of closing the gap depend heavily on turnout on Election Day. The poll finds that among those who have already voted (64% Biden vs. 34% Trump) or plan to vote early but had not yet done so at the time they were interviewed (63% Biden vs. 33% Trump), Biden has almost two-thirds support. Yet Trump leads between 59% and 36% among those who say they plan to vote on Election Day.
The demographic chasms that have defined the nation’s politics for the past four years continue. Women break sharply for Biden, 61% versus 37%. Among men, it is an almost even split, 48% for Trump and 47% for Biden. Voters of color support the Democrat by a margin of nearly 50 points, 71% versus 24%, while white voters split 50% for Trump versus 48% for Biden.
Those nearly even numbers among men and among white voters mask significant divisions by education among whites and by race between genders. Women of color (77% Biden vs. 21% Trump) and white women (54% Biden vs. 45% Trump) break toward Biden, as do men of color (64% Biden vs. 28% Trump). White men, however, favor Trump 56% against 41%.
Those with college degrees favor Biden by 30 points, while those without degrees split evenly. Among white voters, the difference is greater. White voters with college degrees favor Biden 58% to 40%. Those white voters who do not have a four-year title are a mirror, 58% of Trump versus 40% of Biden. Among white voters with titles, the gender gap is relatively small, but it is a yawn of 38 points between white women without titles (49% Biden vs. 49% Trump) and white men without titles (68% Trump vs. 30% Biden).
And seniors, who changed direction from Democrats in the 2018 election, are solidly in Biden’s corner in this poll. Overall, 55% of likely voters 65 and older support the Democrat, 44% Trump. Biden also leads by a wide margin among voters under 35 (68% Biden vs. 30% Trump), while voters between the ages of 35 and 64 are evenly split between the two candidates (48% support each candidate).
The president’s approval rating in the poll is 42% approve and 55% disapprove of all adults. Among likely voters, it is similar, 42% approve and 56% disapprove. The numbers have barely budged in the last year, with an approval number hovering between 40% and 45% in all but one of the 12 polls CNN has conducted since October 2019. The numbers now don’t differ much from the Trump’s first approval rating in a CNN poll in 2017, when 44% approved and 53% disapproved.
Only about 4 in 10 Americans say things are going well in the country right now (39%). That number has only dropped twice in the reelection years since 1980: in 1992 (35% said it was going well) and in 1980 (32% said it was going well).
All the data points to an election that is a referendum on an unpopular president, and a sizable portion of the supporters of both candidates are making their decisions based on their feelings toward Trump. Among Biden supporters, 48% say they vote more against Trump than Biden, while 48% say it is for Biden and not against the president. While that’s still a big anti-Trump vote, it’s a shift in favor of a pro-Biden vote compared to earlier polls in the cycle. On the other hand, almost 8 in 10 Trump supporters (79%) say their votes are for the president and not against Biden (17%).
Although the Trump campaign message in the final weeks of the campaign has been relentlessly negative about Biden. The poll suggests there is little difference in the former vice president’s perceptions. The Democratic candidate’s favorability rating in the poll remains largely positive: 55% of likely voters have a favorable opinion and 42% an unfavorable opinion, roughly the same as in early October. Trump’s figures are as negative as they were earlier this month: 57% have an unfavorable opinion of him, while 41% have a favorable opinion.
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In 2016, voters who held unfavorable views of both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton snapped in favor of Trump, according to exit polls. But that group of voters is smaller with this year’s candidates, from 18% in CNN polls at the exit in 2016 to 4% now. The majority have a favorable opinion of Biden, but not of Trump (51%), while only 37% have a favorable opinion of Trump but not of Biden.
Biden holds an edge over Trump as the candidate most likely to unite the country (60% Biden vs. 34% Trump), who is more honest and trustworthy (54% vs. 37%), who cares about people like you (54 % vs. 40%) and that will keep Americans safe from harm (52% vs. 45%). However, likely voters are divided on which candidate has the stamina and sharpness to be president (47% say Trump, 46% say Biden), a point of focus for Trump, who has beaten Biden on his age. throughout the campaign.
Potential voters are more likely to consider a candidate’s positions on issues important to their vote than the candidate’s leadership and personal qualities. But the subset that focuses on personal qualities breaks sharply with Biden (71% support Biden, 27% Trump), while those who say the issues are more critical favor Trump (54% Trump vs. 43% Biden ).
In general, however, Biden is most often seen as the candidate with a clear plan to solve the country’s problems, 54% say Biden, 41% Trump. And the former vice president has an edge over Trump as being more trustworthy in handling racial inequality (60% Biden vs. 36% Trump), the coronavirus outbreak (57% vs. 39%), healthcare (57% vs. 41%), the crime and security (52% vs. 46%) and Supreme Court nominations (51% vs. 44%). Still, Trump has regained an advantage in managing the economy (51% Trump vs. 46% Biden).
More generally, the majority of likely voters believe that Biden’s policy proposals can lead the country in the right direction (53%), while the majority say that Trump’s proposals point in the wrong direction (53% ).
And all of this is unfolding in the context of a growing coronavirus pandemic. Eight months after much of the country shut down to slow the spread of the virus, 50% of Americans say the worst of that outbreak is yet to come. Only half say they are comfortable returning to their normal routines. Furthermore, 40% say that the economy is still in recession due to the virus, while only 29% say that the economy is beginning to recover.
In all of these measures about the country’s position in the fight against the coronavirus, Biden voters and Trump voters have completely opposite views. Among Biden supporters, 77% say the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, while 78% of Trump voters feel the worst has been left behind. More than 8 in 10 Trump supporters (84%) say they are comfortable returning to their usual routines today, while 76% of Biden voters are not. And 64% of Biden supporters say the economy is still getting worse, while 62% of Trump voters feel it is on the rise.
The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from October 23-26 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults contacted by landlines or cell phones by a live interviewer, including 886 likely voters. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is plus or minus 3.8 points for results among likely voters.
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