Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump now stands at five points, but Trump has an edge in the critical battleground states that could decide the electoral college, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
In the new poll, 51% of registered voters nationwide back Biden, while 46% say they prefer Trump, while in the battlegrounds, 52% favor Trump and 45% Biden. Partisans are deeply entrenched in their corners, with 95% of Democrats behind Biden and the same share of Republicans behind Trump. The two are close among independents (50% back Trump, 46% Biden, not a large enough difference to be considered a lead), but Biden’s edge currently rests on the larger share of voters who identify as Democrats.
The former vice president continues to hold healthy leads among women (55% Biden to 41% Trump) and people of color (69% Biden to 26% Trump). The two run more closely among men (50% Trump to 46% Biden) and the President holds a clear edge among whites (55% Trump to 43% Biden). The poll suggests Biden outpaces Trump among voters over age 45 by a 6-point margin, while the two are near even among those under age 45 (49% Biden to 46% Trump).
Though other recent polling has shown some signs of concern for Biden among younger voters and strength among older ones, few have pegged the race as this close among younger voters. The results suggest that younger voters in the battleground states are tilted in favor of Trump, a stark change from the last CNN poll in which battleground voters were analyzed in March, even as other demographic groups shifted to a smaller degree. Given the small sample size in that subset of voters, it is difficult to determine with certainty whether the movement is significant or a fluke of random sampling. Nationally, Biden holds a lead over Trump among voters age 65 and older, a group which has been tilted Republican in recent presidential elections.
Trump’s biggest advantage over Biden in the poll comes on his handling of the economy. Most voters, 54%, say they trust the President to better handle the nation’s economy, while 42% say they prefer Biden. An earlier release from the same CNN poll found the public’s ratings of the economy at their worst level since 2013, as a growing share said the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus outbreak could be permanent. But Biden does have the advantage as more trusted to handle the response to the coronavirus outbreak (51% Biden to 45% Trump) and health care (54% Biden to 42% Trump).
Voters divide over which of the two has the stamina and sharpness to be president (49% say Trump, 46% Biden), a frequent attack Trump levels against the former vice president. But Biden outpaces Trump across five other tested attributes. His advantage is largest on which candidate would unite the country and not divide it (55% say Biden would, 38% Trump), followed by being honest and trustworthy (53% choose Biden, 38% Trump). Biden is seen as caring more about people like you (54% Biden vs. 42% Trump), better able to manage government effectively (52% Biden to 45% Trump) and more trusted in a crisis (51% Biden to 45% Trump).
A majority of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the President (55%) while fewer feel negatively about Biden (46%). Among the 14% of registered voters who say they have a negative impression of both Trump and Biden, the former vice president is the clear favorite in the presidential race: 71% say they would vote for Biden, 19% for Trump. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who announced he is exploring a run for the presidency on the Libertarian ticket, is unknown to 80% of Americans, and is viewed more unfavorably (13%) than favorably (8%).
As Biden’s campaign moves closer to the selection of a vice presidential running mate, 38% of Democratic voters say choosing a candidate who brings racial and ethnic diversity to the Democratic ticket is one of the top two traits they’d like to see in Biden’s choice, 34% name executive experience as a top-two trait, 32% say bringing ideological balance to the ticket is one of their top two criteria, and 31% say representing the future of the Democratic Party is that important. Proven appeal to swing voters and legislative experience were top tier for about a quarter of voters.
Among Democratic voters of color, 43% say racial and ethnic diversity is one of their top two most important traits, topping all others by 11 points. Among white Democratic voters, diversity and executive experience are about even at the top of the list.
Biden has said he will choose a woman as his vice president. Although several of the possible contenders are unknown to sizable chunks of the population, , five of the women widely considered to be on his list of potential choices – including three of Biden’s former 2020 rivals – are far more liked than disliked among Democratic voters, according to the poll.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fares best, viewed favorably by 69% of Democratic voters and unfavorably by 19%. California Sen. Kamala Harris is also viewed positively by a majority of Democrats (59% favorable vs. 15% unfavorable). Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is viewed favorably by 49% of Democratic voters, unfavorably by 15%. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia in 2018, is seen favorably by 43% of Democrats while 11% have an unfavorable view. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is the least widely known of this group, with 63% of Democratic voters saying they haven’t heard of her or don’t yet have an opinion of her, but those who do largely tilt positive, 29% favorable to 9% unfavorable.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS May 7-10 among a random national sample of 1,112 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer, including 1,001 registered voters and 583 voters in battleground states, defined as the 15 states decided by 8 points or less in 2016 – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
This story has been updated with additional details about the battleground state findings.