By Jason Lange and James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Americans inclined to vote for Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election say they are more motivated by stopping Donald Trump from returning to the Oval Office than they are by supporting the incumbent, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
The two-day poll, which closed on Tuesday, showed Biden and Trump locked in a tight race, with Republican Trump leading Biden 51% to 49% when respondents were asked to pick between the two, within the poll’s credibility interval of about four percentage points.
Biden’s supporters were more likely than those backing Trump to say they would cast their vote to keep the other candidate from winning, a possible indicator of low enthusiasm for Biden as well as a deep disdain for Trump among many Democrats.
Some 50% of Biden supporters in the poll described their vote as being “against Donald Trump and his policies,” compared to 38% who said they would be voting “to support Joe Biden and his policies.” Twelve percent of Biden’s supporters said they were unsure which reason better explained their pick.
Among Trump’s supporters, 40% said they would be voting against Biden and 42% said they would vote for Trump to support the Republican and his policies. The rest – or 18% – were unsure which reason applied.
Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden in 2024, though neither has been formally nominated by his party.
Democratic strategists said the poll results bolster the view that Biden needs to make an affirmative case for his re-election, particularly in fiercely competitive states such as Georgia and North Carolina.
Many Americans remain unfamiliar with Biden’s economic policies, which have led to Congress approving significant new investments in U.S. infrastructure.
“Biden 100% needs to be clearly articulating his economic vision,” said Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist who worked on former President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 election campaigns. “I don’t think you can win Georgia this election cycle with it just being an anti-Trump message.”
Jesse Ferguson, a strategist who worked for Democratic Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, said Biden’s team should use the data to draw comparisons with Trump rather than simply attack him.
Biden’s campaign declined to comment on the poll results and referred instead to a Nov. 8 campaign memo that argued Biden’s agenda was widely embraced and that Trump was holding Republicans back because of his extremism.
A majority of Americans do back Biden’s side of some key national debates, perhaps most critically when it comes abortion rights, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll in September showing Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans by two-to-one on protecting abortion access.
But Biden’s presidency has nonetheless been defined in part by his own unpopularity, with his approval rating stuck around 40% for much of the last year and a half, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Inflation has been historically high and many Americans, including many Democrats, have expressed concern about his advanced age. At 80, Biden is already the oldest president ever to occupy the White House.
Trump, 77, looms large as a bogeyman for the U.S. left – and for some conservatives as well – given his history of inflammatory remarks against immigrants and women as well as his efforts to overthrow his loss to Biden in the 2020 election.
Many Americans are fed up with both Biden and Trump. The new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed significant support for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, an anti-vaccine activist and scion of a storied political family.
In a hypothetical three-way contest, 30% of poll respondents picked Biden, 32% picked Trump and 20% selected Kennedy. The rest said were unsure or wouldn’t vote.
The poll was conducted online, gathering responses from 1,006 adults nationwide.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and James Oliphant, Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)