Voters in America believe that Joe Biden is the best candidate to help the country recover from coronavirus, polling suggests.
With three weeks to go until the November 3 election, analysis suggests Covid-19 remains “front and centre” for the American voting public.
Ipsos USA, a public opinion specialist, interviewed thousands of Americans to understand the key issues they will be voting on with the election likely to be a “referendum on the president”.
“Unfortunately for the president, most Americans feel that Joe Biden is best on having a plan to help the nation recover,” Mallory Newall, public affairs director, told the PA news agency.
“This is an election that’s going to be about the pandemic. And if that’s how the Biden campaign can frame it, then that probably gives them an advantage.”
According to Ipsos polls, the former vice president has a 10-point lead on the incumbent. However, as in 2016, the vote looks like it will come down to six key states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida.
But polls are not an accurate prediction of what will happen on election day, and traditionally the sitting president has an advantage when it comes to a second-term election. In another closely run race, Ipsos predictions currently give President Trump 50-50 odds of being re-elected.
Newall said: “Polls are a snapshot in time, they’re designed to tell us how the American public views the race right now, not necessarily predicting what we think is going to happen on election day.”
But she emphasised that election forecasting and national polling are “really two different things”.
She said: “People love to talk about the polling going wrong in 2016. But if you actually look, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of about two percentage points.
“The final polls had Hillary Clinton ahead about two or three points. So not that far off from where the popular vote was.
“This time around, national polling has been remarkably consistent. The lead that Joe Biden has held over President Trump really hasn’t shifted that much.
“Furthermore, Joe Biden has been hovering at, or in the case of (last) week, just above that magical 50% threshold, which is somewhere that Hillary Clinton never got in 2016.”
Trump’s approval rating has remained in the mid to low 40% range for several years.
“Views of the president are really entrenched and already baked in — people know how they feel about him,” she explained.
While it is hard to speculate about how the election would be unfolding had the pandemic not happened, Newall said polls in January showed Trump had a slight advantage.
She said: “He was seen as doing well when it comes to dealing with the economy, when it comes to jobs and unemployment. Those continue to be strong subjects for the president, but people are less bullish about that right now as they were at the beginning of the year.
“So as a pollster, I can’t sit here and say, you know, what would have happened if Covid-19 weren’t a thing? I think, ultimately, we can just look at the landscape as it is now. And show that the more that this election is about the pandemic, the less favours it does for the president at the moment.”