Joe Biden holds a 17-point lead over Donald Trump in trust to handle the coronavirus pandemic in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, powering the Democrat to a double-digit advantage in vote preference with the presidential election three weeks away.
In the aftermath of his own COVID-19 diagnosis, two-thirds of registered voters say Trump failed to take appropriate precautions against the virus, 62% distrust what he says about it and eight months since its arrival in the United States just 21% say it's under control.
See PDF for full results, charts, and tables.
Also damaging to Trump: 58% disapprove of how he's handled the pandemic -- essentially steady since July -- and a new high, 73%, are worried they or an immediate family member might catch the coronavirus (or say it's already happened). Worry about the virus remains a significant independent predictor of support for Biden over Trump.
The presidential race stands at 53%-41%, Biden-Trump, among registered voters, and a similar 54%-42% among likely voters, with minimal support (in the low single digits) for the Libertarian and Green Party candidates. Biden's advantage rests on his support among women, racial and ethnic minorities, independents and an unusually wide lead among moderates.
The race is tied among men, 48%-48% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, while Biden is up 59%-36% among women, the widest margin among women for any presidential candidate in exit polls dating to 1976. (That includes 62%-34% among suburban women and 54%-41% among suburban white women.) Biden's vast 69%-25% lead among moderates, if it holds, would be a record by far. And his result among independents, while not a statistically significant lead, is the widest for a Democrat in exit polls since 1988.
This poll describes the current contest; it's not remotely close enough to Election Day to be predictive of the outcome. Look no further than 2016: Hillary Clinton held a 12-point lead on Oct. 22, 17 days before the election, following sexual assault allegations against Trump and disclosure of his lewd comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape. That contracted to Trump up by 1 point eight days later, as GOP voters set aside their doubts and returned to his ranks, and Clinton up by 2 points a week before the election.
Trump, moreover, has ammunition: 54% now approve of his handling of the economy, the most since March (albeit by a single percentage point). In contrast with his deficit on the pandemic, he continues to run essentially even with Biden in trust to handle the economy, 48%-47%.
Nearly twice as many registered voters say the economy is the single most important issue in their vote, 29%, as pick the pandemic, 15%. While that's a 6-point increase for the economy as the top issue from Sept. 24, the potential benefit for Trump is mitigated by a 5-point drop in another of his go-to issues, crime and safety, as the top concern.
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Trump also still has a substantial enthusiasm advantage; among likely voters, 75% of his supporters are very enthusiastic about him, a new high, versus 60% strong enthusiasm for Biden. That said, while Trump held steady on this measure, Biden's strong enthusiasm inched up by a slight 7 points from late September, and it's advanced from a mere 28% among registered voters back in March.
Strong enthusiasm for Trump far surpasses its level among his supporters at this point in 2016: 47%. Biden, for his part, runs well ahead of Clinton's strong enthusiasm: 43%.
Trump has disconnects beyond his pandemic response. Seventy-nine percent of registered voters say they're prepared to accept the outcome of the election, a commitment Trump has refused to make. And 56% say he has not paid his fair share of taxes, following reporting by The New York Times that he paid $750 in personal income taxes in 2017 and nothing at all in 11 out of 18 years for which it obtained his tax returns.
Eighteen percent say they're either not prepared to accept the election's legitimacy, or it depends on the outcome -- identical to the result in 2016 when Trump, as now, threw shade on the vote count. Still, it's a somewhat bipartisan result -- while 22% of Trump's supporters are unready at this time to accept the outcome as legitimate, so are 16% of Biden's.
And there's the question of Trump's overall job performance. Among all Americans, 44% approve, while 54% disapprove; it's about the same among registered voters and likely voters. This result almost exactly matches vote preferences, underscoring the extent to which the election is a referendum on the incumbent.