Biden leads Trump by 14 points in NBC/WSJ poll

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak at a campaign event at United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 951 in Grand Rapids, Michigan on October 2, 2020.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s national lead over President Donald Trump jumped this month, and voters consider the Democratic challenger better equipped to handle a range of key issues than the Republican incumbent, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found. 

Biden garners the support of 53% of registered voters nationally, versus 39% for Trump, according to the survey released Sunday. The 14-percentage point advantage in the poll, taken after Tuesday’s first presidential debate but before the early Friday announcement of Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, compares with Biden’s 8-percentage point edge in an NBC/WSJ survey taken last month.

Respondents believe Biden better handled the debate, a free-for-all in which Trump frequently interrupted his opponent and Biden called the president a “clown.” The survey found 49% of voters think Biden did a better job, while 24% think Trump performed better. Another 17% said neither man did a good job, and 9% answered that they are not sure. 

Even so, it is unclear how much the chaotic event will change the race. About three-quarters of respondents, 73%, said the debate made no difference in how they will vote. Another 19% responded that it made them more likely to support Biden, while 6% answered that it made them more likely to back Trump.

The phone survey of 800 registered voters, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points. 

With many states already voting and about a month remaining until Election Day on Nov. 3, surveys have found a stable advantage for Biden over Trump. An NBC News average of recent national polls finds the Democrat leading by more than 8 percentage points. 

Meanwhile, Biden has at least a slim lead in polling averages of several states that will determine who wins the election, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, according to RealClearPolitics. Survey averages also show tight races in Florida and North Carolina. 

Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and subsequent admission to Walter Reed Medical Center have injected more uncertainty into the race. The president’s doctors say he is improving, though their comments and subsequent remarks from a White House official Saturday generated confusion about his condition.

Trump will likely have to stay off the campaign trail for some time during the final stretch of the election as he recovers and he tries to make up ground against Biden.

In a race defined by the Trump administration’s struggles to contain the outbreak in the U.S., infections of the president, first lady Melania Trump, Trump campaign officials and advisors and multiple GOP senators in recent days could add to scrutiny of the White House’s handling of the pandemic. 

In the NBC/WSJ poll taken before the president’s diagnosis, 52% of registered voters said Biden would do a better job dealing with the coronavirus, versus 35% who chose Trump.

Asked who would better handle a range of other key issues, respondents only preferred Trump in one area: the economy.

  • Dealing with the economy: Trump 48%, Biden 41% 
  • Dealing with crime and violence: Biden 45%, Trump 41%
  • Having the necessary mental and physical health to be president: Biden 41%, Trump 40%
  • Having strong leadership qualities: Biden 45%, Trump 40%
  • Making appointments to the Supreme Court: Biden 46%, Trump 37%
  • Dealing with health care: Biden 53%, Trump 34% 
  • Dealing with race relations: Biden 55%, Trump 26%
  • Having the right temperament to be president: Biden 58%, Trump 26%
  • Addressing issues of concern to women: Biden 56%, Trump 25%

Republicans have moved to quickly confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as Democrats argue the next president should fill the vacancy. On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate Judiciary Committee would move forward with a planned Oct. 12 hearing on her nomination after two members of the panel, GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, tested positive for Covid-19. 

In Sunday’s poll, 50% of respondents said the Senate should wait to vote on a nominee until the U.S. knows who has won the election, while 38% answered that the chamber should vote before the election. Another 11% said they did not have an opinion one way or the other. 

Meanwhile, 35% of voters said they support Barrett serving as a Supreme Court justice. Another 34% responded that they oppose her holding a spot on the top U.S. court, while 30% said they do not know enough to decide. 

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