Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump has surged to a record 17 points as the US election enters its final sprint, an Opinium Research and Guardian opinion poll shows.
Some 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden, while just 40% say they will vote for the incumbent president, the survey shows.
The 17-point gap is even bigger than than 57%-41% margin found by CNN earlier this month. It is just short of the lead in the popular vote that Ronald Reagan enjoyed in his second landslide victory in 1984. Four years later, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis led George HW Bush by 17 points only to suffer defeat, but that poll was taken in July so Bush had ample time to recover.
With election day just three weeks away and millions of votes already cast, some Republicans fear a rout in the races for the presidency, Senate and House of Representatives. Ed Rollins, who advises a pro-Trump super political action committee, told the New York Times: “The president’s political environment is terrible. It’s an uphill battle.”
Asked by the Times if Trump can still turn things around, Rollins replied: “It’s cooked.”
Opinium’s findings for the Guardian suggest that a hectic month that saw the death of the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump’s disastrous debate performance and a White House outbreak of coronavirus that infected the president himself swung the pendulum decisively in Democrats’ favour.
Biden has gained five percentage points among undecided voters since September. Democrats also injected momentum into existing supporters, with voters for Biden now more likely to turn out, up from 75% in September to 82% this month.
The former vice-president now leads on healthcare, race relations, jobs and even the economy (45% to 43%), usually seen as Trump’s signature issue. His reputation as a successful businessman took a hit from a New York Times investigation into his tax affairs.
The research also exposes some key differences from the 2016 election when Trump edged out Hillary Clinton in the electoral college.
Both Trump and Clinton were historically unpopular. The president again has a negative approval rating of -11%, with two in five (42%) strongly disapproving of how he is handling the presidency. But this time Biden has a strong positive approval rating of +18%. More than half (52%) of voters approve of his handling of his campaign.
Clinton also fared poorly on sexism-charged questions of “likability” and which candidate would voters rather go for a beer with. But in 2020 voters say Biden is more likable than Trump by a 57% to 32% margin.
And whereas Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” label and allegations seemed to stick, his attempts to portray Biden as mentally unstable appear to be falling short. In fact, voters say Biden, 77, has better mental stamina than 74-year-old Trump by a 48% to 44% margin.