Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden maintains a double-digit national lead over Donald Trump, but a new poll conducted on behalf of The Independent shows some warning signs for the former vice president.
Mr Biden has the support of 52 per cent of voters against the president’s 42 per cent, with Americans deeply concerned about Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey conducted by JL Partners and The Independent.
There are deep partisan divides among voters over the two candidates’ endorsement of a coronavirus vaccine. Mr Trump saying a potential vaccine is safe drives confidence in one lower than Mr Biden saying the same. The president received low marks on a number of other issues and has just two weeks to change enough voters’ minds if he wants to secure a second term.
But the poll found ample reasons for Mr Biden and his campaign team to worry.
Political prognosticators for months have said he needs large numbers of white college-educated and Black voters to cast ballots in his favor. But the survey of more than 1,000 people shows Mr Biden lagging behind the last Democratic presidential nominee with both groups. Pundits say, because this appears to be a turnout election, he needs big numbers of both in the right states to offset an expected big conservative turnout.
Mr Biden leads among white people with a college degree by 10 percentage points, which would be worse than Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance with that voting bloc.
Among Black voters, Mr Biden has a 72 per cent lead – over 10 points worse than Ms Clinton.
Mr Biden has struggled at times to reach out to the Black community.
During a town hall last week, a participant referred to Mr Biden’s appearance on a radio show hosted by Charlamagne tha God, and asked: “Besides ‘you ain’t Black’, what do you have to say to young Black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them?”
Mr Biden had told the show: “I tell you if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
The president has tried to lock up some support from Black voters by describing their collective economic situation as stronger since he took office – and by saying Democratic politicians have let them down for decades.
“Obama is going to start campaigning. I said, is that good or bad? Because I think it’s a good thing because you know they did a lousy job and I wouldn’t be president of the United States if they did a good job,” Mr Trump said during a campaign rally late last week.
“African-American income, think of this, grew nine times more than it did under Biden and Obama, right?” he added. “That’s a big number.”
Mr Trump’s claims are in line with data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that agency notes in a report that the unemployment rate for Black Americans is 6.1 per cent, while in 2019 it “was considerably higher than the overall rate of 3.7 per cent”.
On the flip side, the survey shows Mr Biden doing better with Latino voters than Ms Clinton did four years ago. He has the support of 57 per cent lead, compared to her 38 per cent.
But in another possible warning for team Biden, JL partners adds this caveat: “Note that the September poll showed Trump performing slightly better than in 2016.”
There are indicators Mr Biden is underperforming compared to a Democratic nominee who lost the Electoral College race to Mr Trump, but James Johnson, a former Downing Street pollster and JL Partners founder, says time could be the former vice president’s biggest ally with just two weeks of campaigning left.
“With two weeks to go, Donald Trump is running out of time. After all the trials and tribulations of the last few weeks, Biden continues to hold a clear 10-point lead with likely voters,” he said, “a margin which would take him into the White House even in the event of significant polling error.”
JL Partners was commissioned to poll American voters on behalf of The Independent and spoke to 1,034 respondents across the US.