WASHINGTON — The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds President Donald Trump in a familiar position as summer arrives, trailing by 7 points in a head-to-head matchup against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. But inside the poll are more concerning numbers for the president that suggest challenges with key voter groups.
Comparing the new survey data to the numbers from the 2016 election exit poll shows Trump has lost ground with a wide range of demographic groups measured by educational attainment, gender and race. These are numbers he’ll need to address if he wants to be re-elected.
Biden’s overall lead over Trump has been a consistent 7 points in the last two NBC News/WSJ polls. And that, in itself, is probably a concern for the Trump team.
Remember that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016, but he lost it narrowly, by about 2 points. That closeness was what allowed him to win the Electoral College vote and the White House. A popular vote loss of 7 points would make such an Electoral College win extremely unlikely in 2020.
But narrowing a 7-point deficit is not an easy task. And other numbers in the latest NBC/WSJ poll make clear just how complicated that challenge may be. Trump has lost ground with many different kinds of voters.
Start with education. One of Trump’s key strengths among voters has been his support among blue-collar workers without a college degree. In 2016, he lost college graduates by about 9 points, but won voters without a degree by about 8 points. There was an “education gap” in the results, but Trump gained as much as he lost in it.
But this week’s poll finds him leading among those without a degree by only about 3 points, while he is losing voters with a degree by 24 points. That’s a massive edge for Biden among voters with a degree and a much smaller edge for Trump among voters that are a big part of his base.
And even if Trump can win back a chunk of his non-degree vote, the losses among those with a degree is sizable. He’d likely need to chip into that Biden’s college and graduate-degree edge to get a margin more to his liking.
Gender poses a similar problem. Trump has always leaned on male voters and done worse with women. He won men by about 12 points in 2016 and lost women by the same amount, about 12 points.
But in the new NBC/WSJ poll, his edge with men has eroded to about 8 points, and his deficit with women has exploded to 21 points.
That’s a gender split that basically makes it impossible for Trump to win the popular vote. Women tend to make up more of the electorate than men.
And a split like that would make an Electoral College win extremely unlikely for Trump. It would require swing states to have electorates or gender splits that look dramatically different from the overall national figures.
But the most problematic number in the poll for Trump may be his standing with white voters in the head-to-head with Biden. In 2016, Trump won white, non-Hispanic voters by 21 points. It made up for the huge losses he faced with communities of color.
In the new poll, Trump does better with African American and Hispanic voters than he did in 2016, though he still isn’t close to winning those groups. But his edge with white voters is down to just 6 points — 49 percent to 43 percent for Biden — and white voters still make up the overwhelming majority of the electorate.
That 43 percent for Biden is an especially significant number.
In 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House decisively, he won 43 percent of the white, non-Hispanic vote. And overall, he won the popular vote in 2008 by about 7 points, equal to Biden’s current lead in the poll.
To be clear, Election Day is still five months away, which is a lifetime in politics, and several lifetimes in 2020 time. In a year marked by everything from a pandemic to protests across the country, there are almost certainly going to be more twists and turns to come.
On Friday, a surprisingly strong job report had Trump heralding the good economic news and promising more good times ahead. And the poll shows the economy is still a point of strength for him.
But the numbers here indicate that as of early June, the president has a lot of work to do with a lot of different kinds of voters if he wants to be re-elected.