Biden reduces Trump’s lead in recent times/Siena poll

President Biden has all but erased Donald J. Trump’s early election lead, amid signs that the Democratic base has begun to rally behind the president despite lingering doubts about the country’s direction, the economy and his age, according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

Biden and Trump are now virtually tied, with Trump holding a 46% to 45% lead. That’s an improvement for Biden from late February, when Trump had a more solid lead of 48% to 43% shortly before becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

Biden’s rally appears to stem largely from his improved standing among traditional Democratic voters: He is winning over a larger share of voters who supported him in 2020 than he did a month ago. Back then, Trump had secured the support of many more legacy voters than the president — 97% to 83% — but that margin has shrunk. Biden now wins 89% of his supporters in 2020, compared to Trump’s 94%.

The narrow poll results are the latest evidence of a 2024 contest in which both campaigns are poised to be awfully close. The last two presidential elections were decided by tens of thousands of votes in a handful of conflict states, and this one could be just as close. In a nation so evenly divided, even the smallest shift in support could prove decisive.

Despite the increasingly restricted environment, many of the fundamentals of running appear largely unchanged.

The percentage of voters who believe the country is going in the wrong direction remains at 64%. Nearly 80% of voters, including a majority of Democrats, still rate the country’s economic conditions as fair or poor. And both Biden and Trump remain unpopular, for family reasons. Most voters think Biden is too old. The majority believes that Trump has committed serious federal crimes.

“Just blah,” said Beth Prevost, a 59-year-old hairdresser and independent voter from Windsor Locks, Conn., summing up the feelings of many about the rematch. She said she tended to view Biden as “the lesser of two evils.”

“You can recover from bad policies, but you can’t recover from a bad heart,” Ms. Prevost said. “And Donald Trump has a bad heart.”

The investigation comes shortly before Trump’s historic criminal trial in New York City, the first for a former American president. He is accused of forging documents relating to a hush money payment to a porn star. The case is one of four involving criminal charges against Trump, but it is the only one so far with a trial set to begin before the election.

Yet despite the risk that the Republican candidate could end up in prison, only one in four voters said they still pay close attention to the former president’s legal duties.

The Biden campaign, which has already begun advertising in battleground states, hopes that the reality of a potential second Trump term will reluctantly push Democrats back to their typical partisan position. There is some initial evidence that this happens.

Over the past month, Biden’s support among white voters has remained stable, but has increased among Black and Latino voters, though it still lags traditional levels of Democratic support. Biden fared better than a month ago in the suburbs and among women, even if he was weaker among men. Younger voters remain a persistent weakness, while older voters provide a source of relative strength for the Democratic president.

The poll’s overall margin of error was 3.3%. But the results between subgroups are less reliable from a statistical point of view because there are fewer respondents within them. However, this poll showed Biden had the best performance among nonwhite voters among the last three Times/Siena polls since December.

Age, however, remains a political albatross for Biden.

Fully 69% of voters still believe the 81-year-old Democrat is too old to be an effective president. Trump, who turns 78 in June, would also be the oldest president in American history if elected. But voters don’t have the same doubts about his ability to serve, with just 41% considering him too old.

There has been a noticeable change in the last month. Among voters over 65, the share who consider Biden too old has declined significantly.

Russell Wood, 67, a retired Democrat and veteran who lives in Los Angeles County, said he had noticed a marked change in Mr. Biden’s energy levels. He was disappointed that Biden skipped the traditional pre-Super Bowl interview, but he was pleased with the performance he had witnessed since.

“He did a really good job at the State of the Union, and it’s like he’s been a different Joe Biden ever since,” Wood said, adding, “I know he’s on the campaign trail day in and day out. “I have no complaints there. “

The economy also continues to represent a brake for the president, who has tried to frame his work agenda “from the bottom up and to the center” under the banner of “Bidenomics”. Young voters are particularly sour, with more than 85% rating the economy poor or fair.

Voters in the poll gave almost perfectly invested ratings of Trump and Biden’s handling of the economy: 64% approve of Trump’s handling of the issue as president and 63% disapprove of Biden’s work on the issue now.

Immigration gave Trump the other big lead among a number of issues voters were asked about in the poll. Border crossings reached record levels late last year. A slim majority approved of Trump’s handling of immigration as president, while 64% of voters disapproved of Biden’s work on those issues.

Luis Campino, a 50-year-old independent voter who immigrated from Colombia and now lives in Highland, New York, said there were “dangerous” people crossing the border. “They’re coming as if nothing had happened,” he added.

Campino said he voted for Biden in 2020 but wanted to vote for Trump as a “lesser of evils,” a decision driven in part by his concerns about crime and immigration.

In the poll, Biden received better ratings than Trump for his ability to unite the nation and for his handling of both race relations and the pandemic.

But with the war in Ukraine dragging into its second year after the Russian invasion and the civilian death toll rising in Gaza following the Israeli assault after the Hamas terror attack, voters gave Trump significantly more votes high on his management of foreign conflicts.

Only 36% approve of Biden’s handling of these conflicts, with weaknesses particularly evident among younger voters. Only 4% of voters under 45 strongly approve of his work on international issues.

Danny Ghoghas, 23, a bartender and waiter living in Burbank, California, is seriously considering staying home on Election Day to protest Biden’s response to the conflict in Gaza.

“I really don’t like Donald Trump and I wouldn’t want him in office again,” said Ghoghas, a Democrat. “That’s why I would vote for Biden again. But other than that, I can’t really think of a good reason to vote for him.”

Generational differences on foreign affairs were notable. While voters of all ages viewed Trump equally, Biden received much worse ratings from voters under 45, 70% of whom disapproved. Among those 45 or older, a slimmer majority of 53 percent disapproved.

Biden has made Trump’s potential to undermine Democratic governance after the January 6, 2021 riot a centerpiece of his reelection campaign. But so far, equal segments of 31% of respondents said Biden and Trump were “good for democracy.” The number of those who said Trump is “bad for democracy,” 45%, only slightly exceeded those who said the same of Biden.

Also in the poll, nearly equal shares of voters labeled Trump and Biden a “risky choice” for the country.

The survey did not ask about potential third-party candidates. But about 5% of voters apparently unhappy with the Trump-Biden choice volunteered the names of other candidates for whom they planned to vote, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Democrat-turned-independent who is struggling to get on the ballot at national.

It is not yet clear what effect the impending criminal trial will have for Trump, with 37% saying they have paid little or no attention.

However, a majority of 58% of voters believe that the accusation that he falsified corporate documents to cover secret payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels is very serious or somewhat serious. Opinions have been predictably divided along partisan lines, although a majority of independents consider the allegations at least somewhat serious.

More interesting was the gender gap on that question.

Women were twice as likely as men, 40% to 20%, to consider the accusations against the porn star very serious; men were twice as likely as women to rate the allegations as not serious, 30% to 15%.

Ruth Igielnik, Alice McFadden AND Camilla Baker contributed to the reporting.

  • We spoke to 1,059 registered voters from April 7-11, 2024.

  • Our surveys are conducted by telephone, using live interviewers, in both English and Spanish. For this survey, more than 95% of respondents were contacted by cell phone.

  • Voters are selected for the poll from a list of registered voters. The list contains information about the demographic characteristics of each registered voter, allowing us to ensure we reach the right number of voters for each party, race and region. For this survey we made nearly 127,000 calls to more than 93,000 voters.

  • To further ensure that results reflect the entire voting population, not just those willing to participate in a survey, we give more weight to respondents from demographic groups that are underrepresented among respondents, such as people without a college degree. You can see more information about the characteristics of our respondents and the weighted sample on the methodology page, under “Sample Composition”.

  • The poll’s margin of sampling error among registered voters is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. In theory, this means that results should reflect the opinions of the overall population most of the time, although many other challenges create additional sources of error. When calculating the difference between two values, for example a candidate’s lead in a race, the margin of error is twice as large.

You can see full results and a detailed methodology here. If you would like to learn more about how and why we conduct our surveys, you can see answers to frequently asked questions and submit your questions here.