Everybody likes Joe. Well, not everybody. Our most recent Fox News poll shows that 41% of those surveyed have an unfavorable impression of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. But more crucially, a much larger number –57% of respondents — have a favorable impression of the former vice president.
Biden’s strong favorability number, and its growth throughout the campaign, tells us much about why he’s ahead in the presidential election.
Why is Donald Trump president today? One big reason that Trump won the 2016 election is that voters did not like either of the two major-party candidates. Real Clear Politics records an average of favorability ratings for presidential candidates. On election day 2016, Trump’s number was not good. He had a 37.5% average favorability rating.
But Clinton’s was not much better, at 41.8%. And famously, among the “double haters,” voters who had an unfavorable impression of both candidates, Trump won by a 17-point margin. In a choice between two candidates they did not like, many voters were willing to take a chance on the lesser-known candidate.
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This year, the story is very different.
Well, not for Trump. More voters continue to hold an unfavorable opinion of him than hold a favorable opinion. In our most recent Fox News poll, the ratio is 44% to 54%.
The difference between 2016 and 2020 is in the favorability numbers for Trump’s opponent. As noted, our poll has Biden with a 57-41 favorable/unfavorable rating, almost the opposite of Clinton’s numbers in 2016. And a check of the Real Clear Politics average for 2020 shows Biden to be above water in favorability across a number of different polls — the average is 50.6 favorable to 43.7 unfavorable.
President Trump is known for having a strong base of supporters, but more voters have a strongly favorable impression of Biden (33%) than they do of Trump (31%).
These numbers show that the average voter likes Biden, have a favorable impression of the former vice president, and that seems to be translating to his 10-point lead in the polls.
But it is also notable that Biden’s favorability rating has been going up throughout the course of the campaign. Our poll found that Biden had a 48% favorability rating in both April and May, right after Biden clinched the Democratic nomination. That number went up to 53% in June, 54% in July, 55% in September, and 58% in October. As voters have learned more about Biden over the course of the campaign, more of them have come to like him.
Which voters are increasing their perceptions of Biden? A review of the polling data shows that Biden is improving his favorability across a wide array of demographic groups.
I looked at Biden’s favorability ratings in the most recent FoxNews poll, and our poll in May. Biden’s favorability rating jumped nine points overall between the two polls, from 48% to 57%.
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He also increased his favorability nine points among men, women, whites, white men, and white women. Biden’s favorability went up eight points with white college graduates and suburban women, and ten points with women, whites without a college degree, and suburbanites.
There were two groups with which Biden’s favorability increased the most. He went from 79% to 92% favorability among Democrats, indicating that he has consolidated his support within his party. And Biden’s favorability rose 15 points, from 52% to 67% among voters under the age of 45, shoring up his biggest weakness from the Democratic primary.
Biden’s rising favorability ratings are important because Biden’s personality and character have been one of the key themes of this year’s election.
President Trump and his Republican allies have attacked Biden as a “puppet” of the “radical left” and their “extreme agenda,” for having “spent the last half century in Washington selling [voters] out,” for encouraging rioting in American cities, for seeing “darkness” rather than “American greatness,” and for having lost his mental acuity as he aged.
Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign has made their candidate’s personality a key component of their campaign message. The Democratic National Convention and subsequent campaign ads have focused on Biden’s biography and character.
Both the convention and television ads have made great efforts to discuss Biden’s personal story — the loss of his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972 and the loss of his adult son Beau to cancer in 2015.
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One of the key messages of the Biden campaign is that by understanding loss, Biden can also understand the struggles and sacrifices that the American public has had to make to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s rising levels of favorability indicate that he is winning the argument.
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