Among potential voters, 54% support Biden and 42% support Trump. Biden has held the lead in every CNN poll about the match since 2019, and has garnered a statistically significant advantage in every high-quality national poll since the spring.
The poll does not indicate that Trump’s four-year campaign for re-election has managed to rally new supporters since his narrow victory in the 2016 election.
Barring major changes to the landscape in the final days of the race, Trump’s chances of closing the gap depend heavily on turnout on Election Day. The survey found that among those who have already voted (64% Biden versus 34% Trump) or who plan to vote early but have not at the time of the interviews (63% Biden versus 33% Trump), Biden retains nearly two-thirds support. Trump came up 59% against 36%, though, among those who say they plan to vote Election Day.
The demographic rifts that have defined the nation’s politics in the past four years remain. The women broke sharply for Biden, 61% to 37%. Among men, there is a near-equal split, 48% for Trump and 47% for Biden. Voters of color support Democrat by a margin of roughly 50 points, 71% to 24%, while white voters split 50% for Trump to 48% for Biden.
These semi-marital numbers among men and among white voters mask major divisions by education between whites and race and sexes. Women of color (77% Biden versus 21% Trump) and white women (54% Biden versus 45% Trump) both broke in Biden’s favor, as did men of color (64% Biden versus 28% Trump). But white men prefer Trump, 56% to 41%.
Those with college degrees prefer Biden by 30 points, while those without degrees are split evenly. The difference is even greater among white voters. White voters with college degrees favor Biden by 58% to 40%. Those white voters without a four-year college degree are a mirror image, breaking 58% for Trump to 40% for Biden. Among these white, degree-earning voters, the gender gap is relatively small, but it widens 38 points between white women without degrees (49% Biden versus 49% Trump) and white men without degrees (68% Trump versus 30% Biden).
And the elderly, who changed direction in the Democrats in the 2018 election, stand firmly on Biden’s corner in this poll. Overall, 55% of potential voters 65 or older support a Democrat, and 44% support Trump. Biden also leads by a wide margin among voters under the age of 35 (68% Biden versus 30% Trump), while voters between the ages of 35 and 64 are evenly divided among the candidates (48% support each candidate).
Support for the president in the poll was 42% who agreed with 55% among all adults. Among potential voters, 42% agree with the rejection of 56%. The numbers have rarely budged in the past year, with approval numbers ranging between 40% and 45% in all but one of the 12 polls CNN has conducted since October 2019. The numbers now also do not differ from Trump’s first approval rating on CNN in 2017, when 44% agreed and 53% rejected.
Only about 4 in 10 Americans say things are working fine in the country now (39%). This number has decreased only twice in the re-election years since 1980: in 1992 (35% is doing well) and in 1980 (32% is doing well).
All data points to an election that is a referendum on an unpopular president, and a large percentage of the candidates’ supporters make decisions based on their feelings about Trump. Among Biden supporters, 48% say they vote more against Trump than Biden, while 48% say it is in Biden’s favor, not against the president. Although this is still a big vote against Trump, this shifted in favor of the pro-Biden vote compared to the vote earlier in the session. On the flip side, nearly 8 in 10 Trump supporters (79%) said they voted in favor of the president and not against Biden (17%).
Even so, Trump campaign messages in the final weeks of the campaign have been relentlessly negative about Biden. The poll suggests that it doesn’t make much difference in perceptions of the former vice president. The Democratic candidate’s preference rating in the poll remains largely positive: 55% of potential voters hold a favorable view and 42% have an unfavorable opinion, the same as it was in early October. Trump’s numbers are as negative as they were earlier this month: 57% have a negative opinion of him while 41% have a positive opinion.
In 2016, voters who embraced unfavorable views of both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton turned out sharply in Trump’s favor, according to opinion polls. But this group of voters falls short with this year’s candidates, from 18% in the CNN Exodus Day poll in 2016 to 4% now. A majority have a positive view of Biden, but not Trump (51%), while only 37% have a positive view of Trump but not Biden.
Biden retains more advantages than Trump as the candidate is more likely to unite the country (60% Biden versus 34% Trump), is more honest and trustworthy (54% to 37%), cares about people like you (54% to 40%)) and who will protect Americans are out of harm’s way (52% to 45%). However, would-be voters are divided over which candidate has the stamina and acrimony to be president (47% say Trump owns, 46% Biden), a focal point for Trump, who hit Biden over his age during the campaign.
Voters are more likely to consider a candidate’s positions on issues important to their vote than their leadership positions and personal qualities. But the subgroup focusing on personality traits contrasts sharply with Biden (71% support Biden, 27% Trump), while those who say the issues are more important favor Trump (54% Trump vs. 43% Biden).
Overall, though, Biden is often seen as the candidate with a clear plan to solve the country’s problems, say 54% Biden and 41% Trump. The former vice president has an advantage over Trump as being more confident in dealing with racial inequality (60% Biden to 36% Trump), the coronavirus outbreak (57% to 39%), healthcare (57% to 41%), crime and safety. (52% to 46%) and Supreme Court nominations (51% to 44%). Nevertheless, Trump regained an advantage in dealing with the economy (51% Trump vs. 46% Biden).
Overall, the majority of potential voters see Biden’s policy proposals as likely to move the country in the right direction (53%), while most say Trump’s proposals point in the wrong direction (53%).
All this is happening against the background of the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. After eight months of locking down much of the country to slow the spread of the virus, 50% of Americans say the worst of that disease is yet to come. Only half of them said they are comfortable going back to their normal routine. Additionally, 40% said the economy is still in recession due to the virus, while only 29% said the economy is starting to recover.
In all of these measures regarding where the country stands in the fight against the Coronavirus, Biden and Trump voters have taken completely opposite views. Among Biden’s supporters, 77% say the worst pandemic is in the future, while 78% of Trump voters feel it is behind us. More than 8 in 10 Trump supporters (84%) say they are comfortable returning to their usual routine today, while 76% of Biden voters are not. 64% of Biden supporters say the economy is still getting worse, while 62% of Trump voters feel it is on the rise.
The CNN survey was conducted by SSRS October 23-26 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cell phones by a live interviewer, including 886 potential voters. The results for the complete sample have a sampling error margin of more or less 3.6 percentage points; Increase or decrease 3.8 points for the results among potential voters.
Correction: This story corrected the margins of error for overall scores and outcomes among potential voters.