Harvard CAPS-Harris poll

Biden leads Trump on law and order, coronavirus

Trump is viewed as the stronger candidate on the economy by a small margin


Joe Biden leads President Trump by 7 points in a new national poll that finds the Democratic nominee significantly outperforming the president on the coronavirus and curbing violence in American cities.

The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris poll of likely voters finds Biden at 49 percent and Trump at 42 percent, a slightly closer race than the same poll from July, when Biden held a 10-point lead.

The 9 percent of likely voters who say they are unsure about who they will vote for lean toward Trump by a 58- to 42-percent margin. When these leaning voters are included, Biden’s national lead narrows from 7 points to 6 points.

Trump is viewed as the stronger candidate on the economy by a small margin. Biden is viewed as the better candidate in almost every other area, from the coronavirus, to race, policing, law and order, and China.

“The race definitely tightened, while Biden maintains a significant but diminished lead,” said Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll director Mark Penn. “

Seniors are a new battleground as Trump underperforms with seniors and suburban women. Biden is the bring-us-together candidate, while Trump is Mr. fix-the-economy. Trump improved in his job performance in almost all areas but lags significantly on the virus.”

The president’s overall job approval rating has increased from 43 percent to 46 percent, with 54 percent overall saying they disapprove. Among independents, Trump’s job approval rating is at 42 positive and 58 negative.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus continues to be a major problem for him with the election only 60 days out.

Fifty-seven percent of voters say Biden is the preferred candidate to lead the nation out of the coronavirus.

Fifty-eight percent say Trump has done a bad job of managing the pandemic, while 62 percent credit their state governors with having done a good job. Only 35 percent of independents say Trump has done a good job addressing the outbreak.

Fifty-six percent said Trump failed to stop the spread of the virus early on.

Trump has tried to reshape the campaign in recent weeks to focus on the destructive elements of the racial justice protests, saying he’s best the candidate to enforce law and order and accusing Democratic officials of allowing their cities to be overrun by criminals.

But the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll finds that 58 percent of voters say Biden would do a better job of curbing violence in cities and 57 percent say he’d do better addressing civil unrest.

Fifty-nine percent say Biden is better equipped to solve the nation’s issues on race and policing. By a margin of 54-46, Biden leads Trump on establishing law and order. Biden is viewed as the candidate best equipped to bring the country together by a 61-39 margin.

A plurality, 26 percent, blame Trump for rising violence in U.S. cities, followed by 20 percent who blame police brutality and 20 percent who blame left-wing agitators.

About 3 out of 4 voters say they’re concerned about crime increasing in American cities, with 50 percent saying they’re concerned about rising crime in their own neighborhoods.

Sixty-seven percent say they believe Republicans oppose violence in cities, compared to 55 percent who say the same of Democrats.

Sixty-eight percent have a favorable view of the police, and 52 percent view the Black Lives Matter movement seriously.

“The civil unrest has become a significant issue in the country, though it ranks behind the virus and the economy, and so politicians might overplay it,” said Penn.

“Nine in 10 expect it to be an issue and support for the police has been rising to nearly 7 in 10 support, while favorability of Black Lives Matter is just about half," he added.

"Most see the police as being treated unfairly by the media yet most also see America as a racist country. Attitudes toward all of this are very much in flux as the public want both tough prosecutions and police reform.”

The economy is a bright spot for the president.

A majority of voters approve of the job Trump is doing on stimulating jobs and on the economy.

Fifty-three percent say they trust Trump over Biden to fix the economy.

The U.S. added 1.4 million jobs in August, according to Labor Department data released on Friday, marking the fourth consecutive month of job gains and declining unemployment since coronavirus lockdown.

The unemployment rate is at 8.4 percent in August, down from 10.2 percent in July, the first time the unemployment rate has fallen below the 10 percent mark since March. The unemployment rate peaked at 14.7 percent in April, when more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs.

Still, 58 percent say the economy is on the wrong track and 59 percent described the economy as weak or very weak.

A plurality, 42 percent, say they expect a recession in the next six months, compared to 30 percent who say it will improve.

“There is mild improvement in the economy as attitudes improved but most still see it as weak and expect the virus to be with us a long time so they are not optimistic in outlook,” said Penn.

“President Trump, however, leads on the one who could fix it but the economy is the No. 2 issue behind the virus. A vaccine could jolt the economy and the political scene.”

The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll online survey of 1,604 registered voters was conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll.

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