After a tumultuous month of news, Biden maintains national lead over Trump

WASHINGTON — After a month of political conventions, fresh controversies, more protests and additional deaths from the coronavirus, the 2020 presidential race remains where’s it’s been for months — with Joe Biden leading President Trump nationally by nearly double digits, and with a majority of voters opposing the president.

Those are the results of a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which finds Biden ahead by 8 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 43 percent, with more than 50 percent of voters disapproving of Trump’s job performance and with Trump holding the advantage on the economy and Biden holding the edge on the coronavirus.

What’s more, the poll shows that close to 90 percent of voters have firmly made up their minds, and that seven-in-10 believe the upcoming debates aren’t that important in deciding their vote.

“So far, despite major upheavals in the country, little has changed,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt, whose firm conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

“In 2020, the fundamentals of our country have been shaken to our core, while the fundamentals of the election have not,” Horwitt added.

Still, the poll finds that 11 percent of all voters are up for grabs, which is greater than Biden’s ballot advantage over Trump.

And Trump’s numbers have inched up in the poll since the summer, while Biden’s favorability rating has also improved in the past month.

“Trump’s summer swoon is over,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster.

The NBC News/WSJ poll — conducted Sept. 13-16 — comes after a turbulent and eventful month of news, including the Democratic and Republican conventions, the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, some 30,000 more deaths from the coronavirus, the Atlantic report alleging the president disparaged fallen military service members and the coverage of Bob Woodward’s new book on Trump.

But the poll was conducted before the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18.

According to the survey, Biden leads Trump, 51 percent to 43 percent, among registered voters — essentially unchanged from Biden’s 9-point lead last month, 50 percent to 41 percent.

Six percent in the current poll say they’re undecided or supporting another candidate.

Biden’s biggest advantages in the poll are among Black voters (he gets support from 90 percent of them to 5 percent for Trump), voters ages 18-34 (60 percent to 31 percent), women (57 percent to 37 percent), whites with college degrees (54 percent to 41 percent), independents (45 percent to 39 percent) and seniors (50 percent to 46 percent).

Trump, meanwhile, has the edge among all white voters (52 percent to 43 percent), men (50 percent to 45 percent) and whites without college degrees (59 percent to 36 percent).

(A separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo oversample of Latino voters will be released on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET to gauge where the Latino vote stands in the presidential race.)

And in the combined 12 swing states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden is ahead of Trump by 6 points, 51 percent to 45 percent.

The up-for-grabs vote

Nearly 50 percent of all registered voters in the poll say there’s no chance at all they would support Trump in the election, while close to 40 percent of voters say the same of Biden.

That leaves, according to the NBC News/WSJ pollsters, 11 percent who appear to be up for grabs between the two candidates.

These up-for-grabs voters have mostly negative views of both Trump and Biden, and their 2020 preference is divided among Trump (27 percent), Biden (20 percent), neither (27 percent) and not sure (24 percent).

“This does not look like a group that Trump can run the table with, which he needs to do in order to change the race,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

Similarly, a combined 71 percent of voters say the upcoming presidential debates, which begin on Sept. 29, are not important or are just somewhat important in deciding their vote in the presidential contest.

Just 29 percent say the debates are “extremely” or “quite” important.

Improved numbers for both Trump and Biden

The NBC News/WSJ poll also shows slightly improved numbers for President Trump and Biden.

Forty-five percent of voters approve of Trump’s job performance — up from 42 percent in July and 44 percent in August, although that movement is all within the poll’s margin of error.

Fifty-three percent disapprove of the president’s job, which is unchanged from last month.

But only 40 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, while 57 percent disapprove — also essentially unchanged from August.

Meanwhile, Biden’s favorability has increased from 39 percent positive, 45 percent negative (-6) last month, to 43 percent positive, 45 percent negative (-2).

That’s compared with Trump’s current rating at 41 percent positive, 52 percent negative (-11).

Last month’s numbers for the president were 40 percent positive, 52 percent negative (-12).

Vice President Mike Pence has a 38 percent positive, 44 percent negative rating (-6), and Democratic running mate Kamala Harris’ rating is 37 percent positive, 38 percent negative (-1).

Trump continues to lead on the economy; Biden holds advantage on coronavirus

On the issues, Trump leads Biden by 10 points on which candidate would better handle the economy, with 48 percent of voters picking the president versus 38 percent picking Biden.

Trump’s lead is 16 points on securing the border and controlling immigration (49 percent to 33 percent), and it’s 9 points on dealing with China (46 percent to 37 percent).

Biden, however, leads on health care (53 percent to 31 percent), the coronavirus (51 percent to 29 percent), race relations (52 percent to 28 percent), protecting immigrant rights (57 percent to 25 percent) and climate change (58 percent to 19 percent).

And on personal characteristics, the poll shows Biden leading on supporting and respecting the military and veterans (47 percent to 42 percent), serving as commander-in-chief (49 percent to 41 percent), being honest and trustworthy (47 percent to 30 percent) and having the ability to bring the country together (52 percent to 28 percent).

Voters are essentially split on which candidate has the necessary mental and physical health to be president, with 41 percent saying Trump is better, and with 38 percent saying Biden is.

Election interest is higher than ever

When it comes to November’s election, 80 percent of voters say they have high level of interest, registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale in interest.

That is the highest percentage on this question dating back to the 2004 election, suggesting a sky-high turnout.

And there’s no difference by party in election interest, with 83 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans having high interest.

Majority of voters plan to vote early

Finally, a combined 52 percent of voters say they will vote early – either by mail, by early in-person voting or that they’ve already voted.

That’s compared with 42 percent who plan to vote at polling places on Election.

There’s a stark political divide here, with 67 percent of Democrats voting early, versus just 36 percent of Republicans.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted Sept. 13-16 of 1,000 registered voters – more than half of whom were contacted via cell phone – and the overall margin of error is plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.