Biden’s Lead Grows, But So Do Dangers for Democracy
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. (Photographer: Ryan Collerd/Bloomberg)

Biden’s Lead Grows, But So Do Dangers for Democracy

A Pew Research survey released today reveals more bad news for President Donald Trump — and more trouble ahead for American democracy. It’s only one poll, but the survey is consistent with others showing Trump’s steady erosion of support since late winter, when the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. and Trump’s inaction began costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

The survey, taken June 16 to 22, is based on a large sample of 4,708 adults, 3,577 of whom are registered voters. It shows Joe Biden leading Trump 54% to 44% among registered voters nationally. Trump’s approval rating has slipped to a dismal 39% of adults, down from 44% in April, with 59% saying they disapprove.

The Pew analysis suggests his approval has further to fall. “Compared with those who continue to approve of Trump, those who previously approved and now disapprove are younger, have lower family incomes and are more likely to live in places hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak,” the report states. Given that the virus is currently rampaging across the swing states of Arizona and Florida, that’s probably not good for the president.

The demographics of the poll are unsurprising: White people continue to be the only racial group that supports Trump, with registered Whites supporting him 53% to 45% over Biden. Whites without a college degree are more supportive than those with degrees; 55% of White adults without a college degree approve of Trump, and 42% disapprove. 

As bad as the poll looks for Republicans in 2020, it looks even worse for them after that. Among voters ages 18 to 29, Biden is leading Trump 68% to 28%. Among voters ages 30 to 49, Biden leads 60% to 38%.

Even among Trump supporters, the actuarial tables are forbidding. Older supporters are more enthusiastic than younger supporters. They also appear to be more devoted imbibers of partisan Kool-Aid. For example, 85% of supporters 65 and older describe Trump, the most reflexively dishonest president in U.S. history, as honest; that number drops 19 points to 66% among Trump supporters ages 18 to 39.

The effects of rigid partisanship informed by generous helpings of propaganda are apparent throughout the poll. Half of voters (51%) say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump to make good decisions about economic policy, including one-third who are very confident. Go figure. In the absence of any coherent national policy, and after weeks of lockdown, the economies of the nation’s three largest states, California, Texas and Florida, are currently in retreat from a largely uncontested pandemic.

Likewise, when evaluating a man who seeks to use the Justice Department as an agent of personal vendettas and appointed numerous criminals to powerful and sensitive positions, 43% say they trust him to “effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues.” A similar percentage, 44%, say they are confident that the man who oversaw the Ukraine shakedown, the Kurd sellout and the precipitous decline of global confidence in the U.S. can make “good decisions about foreign policy.” 

This poll is surely good news for the Biden campaign and is likely to be touted as such. But both Democrats and democrats should beware that the intense partisanship and propaganda that drive support for an unfit president will not fade even if he is removed from office. They will merely become the burden of Trump’s successor.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg Opinion. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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