Biden opens up 11-point national lead over Trump in NBC News/WSJ poll

The presumptive Democratic nominee has a 51 percent to 40 percent lead, while 72 percent say the U.S. is on the wrong track.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden after speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 10.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Mark Murray

WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead nationally over President Donald Trump, with 7 in 10 voters saying the country is on the wrong track and majorities disapproving of the president's handling of the coronavirus and race relations.

Those are the major findings of a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that comes 3½ months before the presidential election, amid a pandemic that has killed about 140,000 people in the U.S. and during protests and debates over race across the country.

The poll shows Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 40 percent, which is well outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Biden's lead in last month's poll was 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent.

In addition, the poll shows Democrats enjoying an intensity advantage heading into November, and it has Trump's job rating declining to 42 percent — its lowest level in two years.

"The atmosphere and the attitudes toward Donald Trump are the most challenging an incumbent president has faced since Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

But the survey also finds silver linings for Trump and the GOP, as well as warning signs for Biden and the Democrats: A majority of voters approve of the president's handling of the economy, Biden's personal ratings have dropped since last month, and Democrats no longer hold a double-digit lead in congressional preference.

"As Americans are coping with the coronavirus and a reckoning on race, politically there is a great deal of sorting going on," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates. "We are a long ways away from knowing how this will all play out in voters' minds."

In his matchup against Trump, Biden's biggest advantages are with African American voters (80 percent to 6 percent), Latinos (67 percent to 22 percent), voters ages 18 to 34 (62 percent to 23 percent), women (58 percent to 35 percent) and white voters with college degrees (53 percent to 38 percent).

Trump is ahead among all white voters (49 percent to 42 percent), men (45 percent to 43 percent) and whites without college degrees (57 percent to 35 percent).

And in the combined 11 battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden leads Trump by 12 points, 52 percent to 40 percent.

What's more, half of voters — 50 percent — say there is no chance at all that they would vote for Trump (compared with 37 percent who say the same of Biden).

And in a separate question, a majority — 52 percent — say they would be "very uncomfortable" voting for Trump (compared with 38 percent who say that of Biden).

Democrats hold slight advantage in intensity

While more respondents say they're enthusiastic about voting for Trump (23 percent of all voters) than Biden (14 percent), the poll finds that Democratic voters are slightly more interested in November's election than Republicans are.

Overall, 77 percent of voters have a high level of interest in the election — expressing either a "9" or "10" on a 10-point scale.

That's the highest level on this NBC News/WSJ question since October 2012.

Yet by party, 80 percent of Democratic voters express high interest, versus 74 percent for Republicans.

"Both parties are going to have very high turnout," McInturff, the GOP pollster, said of the numbers.

Only 19 percent think the country is headed in right direction

The NBC News/WSJ poll also shows that a whopping 72 percent of American voters believe that the country is headed on the wrong track — a 16-point jump on this question since March.

Just 19 percent think the country is headed in the right direction, which is the lowest mark on this question since July 2016, exactly four years ago during the last presidential election.

Forty-two percent of voters approve of Trump's overall job performance — a decline of 3 points since June. That's compared with 56 percent of who disapprove of the president, including 50 percent of all voters who do so strongly.

Just 37 percent approve of Trump's handling of the coronavirus, which is down by 6 points from last month.

And only 33 percent approve of his handling of race relations.

But 54 percent of voters say they approve of Trump's handling of the economy — his highest mark on this question since he became president.

Warning signs for Biden and the Democrats

Trump's standing on the economy isn't the only potential warning sign in the poll for Biden and the Democrats, however.

Biden's personal rating in the survey has dropped from 37 percent positive and 38 percent negative (-1) a month ago to 34 percent positive and 46 percent negative (-12) now.

Trump's rating stands at 39 percent positive and 54 percent negative (-15).

In addition, the Democrats' lead in congressional preference has declined from 11 points in June's NBC News/WSJ poll (51 percent to 40 percent) to 4 points now (47 percent to 43 percent).

74 percent say they always wear masks in public

Finally, when it comes to the coronavirus, 74 percent of voters say they always wear masks when shopping, working or being around others outside the home.

That's an increase from last month, when 63 percent said they always wear masks — with much of the movement coming from Republican and male respondents.

And 57 percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for congressional candidates who focus more on controlling the spread of the coronavirus, versus 25 percent who are more likely to vote for candidates who focus more on reopening businesses.

"This isn't even a fair fight," said Hart, the Democratic pollster.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted July 9-12 of 900 registered voters — more than half of whom were contacted by cellphone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.