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NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll: Biden Expands Lead Over Trump


If you were to take a picture of the race for the White House between Joe Biden and Donald Trump today, you would see Biden running ahead of the incumbent president. Biden's outpacing Trump by double digits according to the latest snapshot taken by the NPR/PBS/Marist poll. NPR's Domenico Montanaro joins us now to talk about what else is in that frame. Hi, Domenico.


MCCAMMON: So a double-digit lead for Biden sounds like a lot. Let's dig into those numbers a bit more, though. Where's that support coming from?

MONTANARO: Well, Biden's got an 11-point lead - 53 to 42 over Trump. That's up from eight points at the end of June. Biden is getting 52% with independents, a 16-point advantage over Trump. And they're tied at 48 with white voters, which is stunning. Trump won them by 20 points in 2016. Just to underscore this, no Democrat has gotten that high with white voters in a presidential election since Carter in '76. And there are far more people of color in the country now, and Biden is winning them by a lot. Democrats, look; usually need around 40% with white voters to win in a presidential election. In 2012, President Obama got 39% with white voters and was the first Democrat to win the presidency with less than 40%. So being at 48 is huge for Biden.

MCCAMMON: And the pandemic surely is influencing how voters think about the choice between these two men. What does the poll say about that?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Voters don't see the president as particularly handling the coronavirus well. In fact, they say they prefer Biden on handling the pandemic by 16 points. And just 31% say they trust the information they're getting from the president. That puts Trump in a difficult position right now. That's part of why he's promoting progress on a vaccine. Here he was today at the White House.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're very close to having something that's going to be very, very special in the form of therapeutics and vaccines.

MONTANARO: You know, experts say they don't expect a vaccine to be ready before the election. But Trump needs people to think that that's possible to help his standing.

MCCAMMON: And, Domenico, the other big issue, of course, this year has been race relations. How is the country viewing the protests around racial justice, and which of the candidates is seen as more trusted to handle that?

MONTANARO: Again, Biden has a big advantage here - 23-point edge over Trump on this question with voters. As for the protests themselves, there is some evidence that Trump's disparaging of the protest - stressing looting and the potential for crime if police are defunded - is having some effect. But mostly it's with his base. Overall, 57% of voters view the Black Lives Matter movement favorably. Fifty-four percent have a favorable impression of the protests. Now, favorable views of the protests are down 8 points from early June, but most of that is coming from Republicans and people who live in rural areas. Trump's suburban messaging, though, just doesn't appear to be sticking. Sixty-five percent of suburban voters view the protests favorably, which is actually up two points since June.

MCCAMMON: And, Domenico, this all looks pretty gloomy for President Trump. I know it's a snapshot in time, but is there a path forward for him to win reelection?

MONTANARO: You know, a few things have to happen. His numbers have to improve in the suburbs or with white voters. Maybe some of those right-leaning independents go home to him because they see him as doing marginally better on handling coronavirus, or his campaign does such a good job of muddying up Biden that he becomes unacceptable to the middle. Or, you know, he gets white voters without a college degree to turn out at a higher percentage than they did in 2016. That's possible. They turned out at a rate of 58% in 2016, so there's room to grow.

MCCAMMON: All right. That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.