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Trump's 50 percent problem persists in latest NBC News/WSJ poll

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland
President Donald Trump arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Oct. 14, 2020.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Trump continues to trail Joe Biden in our latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

And he also continues to have a 50 percent problem — where half or more of the country is opposed to him on key questions.

Fifty-three percent of registered voters in the poll say they’re siding with Biden on the ballot, versus 42 percent who are backing Trump. (Biden’s 11-point lead here is down from his 14-point advantage in the NBC News/WSJ poll conducted right after the first debate.

The exact same share — 53 percent — say they have major concerns that Trump will divide the country rather than unite it. (That was the biggest major concern for either candidate in the poll.)

Fifty-four percent of voters disapprove of Trump’s job, versus 44 percent who approve. (It was 55 percent disapprove, 43 percent approve in our previous poll.)

Fifty-seven percent disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus. (That’s unchanged from the last poll.

And while this number is slightly less than half, it’s still significant: 48 percent of all voters say there’s absolutely no chance they would support Trump. (By comparison, 37 percent of voter say the same about Biden.)

Why is this 50 percent problem for Trump important?

Because he’s the incumbent in 2020 — not the challenger — and it’s tough for an incumbent’s numbers to improve at this stage of an election.

Ask yourself: If you saw a Senate or House incumbent with these types of numbers, how would you view their prospects for re-election?

The personal vs. the national

Here are two more sets of numbers in our new poll with 50 percent or more in them.

One, 50 percent of voters say they and their family are better off than they were four years ago, while 34 percent say they’re worse off.

Two, 58 percent say the country is worse off than it was four years ago, while 38 percent say it’s better off.

That first set of numbers is good news for Trump. But the second set? Not so good.

And voters, as NBC/WSJ co-pollster Jeff Horwitt (D) puts it, “seem to be voting country first.”

Voters’ top concerns

Finally, as we mentioned above, our NBC News/WSJ poll asked eight different negative statements about the presidential candidates — four for Trump, four for Biden.

And here are the top concerns measured by the percentage saying they have major concerns about the statement:

  • Trump will divide the country rather than unite it: 53 percent
  • Trump does not have the right temperament to serve as commander-in-chief: 49 percent
  • Trump will hurt Americans’ health by not going far enough in his response to the coronavirus: 46 percent
  • Biden would allow the Democratic Party to pursue very liberal policies: 41 percent
  • Trump does not have the physical or mental health to be president: 41 percent
  • Biden hasn’t accomplished much in his 47 years in Washington: 39 percent
  • Biden does not have the physical or mental health to be president: 38 percent
  • Biden will hurt the country by going too far in response to the coronavirus: 34 percent.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,957,894: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 56,921 more than yesterday morning.)

218,016: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 930 more than yesterday morning.)

118.37 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 25 percent: The increase in coronavirus cases in the last two weeks in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin

8 million: The number of Americans who may have slid into poverty since May.

67 million: The number of people in France, where curfews have been imposed on almost a third of the population to battle a resurgent coronavirus.

53 percent: The share of Americans in our new NBC/WSJ poll who say it’s a “major concern” for them that Trump will divide the country rather than unite it.

About 15 million: The number of Americans who have already voted.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden’s big bucks

Joe Biden tweeted out last night that his campaign and party accounts raised a whopping $383 million in September — that would mean they raised more than their latest record fundraising number in August when the campaign brought in $365 million.

That money haul is having a real effect in the TV ad space. As we reported earlier this month, the Biden campaign spent $153 million on TV and radio ads, while the Trump campaign spent just $57 million in September. And here’s how that’s now playing out in some of the NBC battleground states:

Since Labor Day, according to data from Advertising Analytics, Biden has outspent Trump in radio and TV ads in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The one battleground Trump still has the advertising advantage in is Georgia.

On the campaign trail today

It’s dueling town halls for Trump and Biden: Trump holds a town hall with NBC News at 8:00 p.m. ET from Miami, while Biden has a town hall at the same time with ABC News in Philadelphia. Before the town halls, Trump holds a rally in Greenville, N.C. Mike Pence is in Miami and Kamala Harris campaigns in Asheville, N.C.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch heads to Michigan, where a tight Senate race gives Republicans one of their few chances to go on the offensive this cycle (a recent poll found John James virtually tied with Democratic Sen. Gary Peters).

James’ new spot starts with a graphic of the year 2020 catching on fire, with the candidate delivering a relatable message: “2020 has been a rough year. No, actually, it’s been pretty terrible.”

But as the challenger trying to convince voters to dump Peters, James goes on to try to pin the “terrible” year on Peters.

“If you like the way things are going in Washington, then stick with Sen. Peters. He’s done the same political thing for 30 years, I guarantee he won’t change. I believe we can do better,” he says.

It’s a strategy James has deployed in other ads — he blames Peters for not getting a handle on the pandemic sooner (a charge Democrats and the Detroit Free Press fact-check unit took issue with).

The question is, can James use that message to help him over the finish line even as voters give President Trump, the leader of James’ party, poor marks on coronavirus response?

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Fears are mounting about political violence if the president loses in November.

Trump says he’s “not happy” with Bill Barr and won’t commit to keeping him as AG in a second term.

Steve Mnuchin says a new coronavirus relief deal isn’t likely before the election.

As the virus spread, Wall Street may have gotten a jump on the news, the New York Times reports.

Republicans are predicting smooth sailing for Amy Coney Barrett.

Here’s the latest on the reporting (and lack thereof) on a Hunter Biden story being pushed by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon.

Famed Alabama football coach Nick Saban tested positive for coronavirus.