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Biden vs. Trump remains close, so next week's debate offers them an opportunity

As President Biden and former President Donald Trump gear up for their first televised debate, a new NPR/<em>PBS News</em>/Marist poll finds them tied among registered voters nationally.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
As President Biden and former President Donald Trump gear up for their first televised debate, a new NPR/PBS News/Marist poll finds them tied among registered voters nationally.

The presidential election remains essentially tied as President Biden and former President Donald Trump prepare for their first televised debate next week.

According to the latest NPR/PBS News/Marist poll, out Tuesday, Biden and Trump both received 49% support among registered voters nationally. That includes undecided voters who are leaning toward one candidate. The survey had a margin of error of nearly 4 percentage points.

That’s relatively unchanged since last month’s poll.

Lee Miringoff — director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey — said most voters have decided who they will vote for in the presidential election.

However, 9% of voters polled said they haven’t yet made up their mind who they’ll vote for. And another 25% said they have a “good idea” who they would vote for, but “could still change [their] mind.”

“I think that this to some degree taps into the notion that there are still a lot of months to go,” Miringoff said.

The first of two planned presidential debates is on June 27, and 6 in 10 survey respondents said they plan to watch it. Because the debates and party conventions have yet to happen, Miringoff said voters are more likely to tell pollsters that they are open to seeing “how things play out.”

“That’s even if they do end up right back where they were,” he said, “because they interpret these events in ways that reinforce what they already think.”

In particular, the poll found younger voters and nonwhite voters were more likely than other groups to say their vote could change. Among both groups, just about 55% said they know for sure who they’re voting for.

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The poll also found that Biden is making some inroads among independent voters. Biden’s support among these voters went from 42% in last month's survey to 50%.

“This may be the group that is most influenced by the results of Donald Trump's legal problems,” Miringoff said. “But independents are very much more persuadable in the whole sea of things that are going to affect this outcome of the election.”

David North, an independent voter in Connecticut who participated in the survey, said he supported Republican candidates until eight years ago, but is also most likely going to vote for Biden in November.

“I think we have to go with Biden just because he's a regular, old time, slick politician that knows how to get things done,” he said. “They just might not like what he gets done. But at least he's playing the game kind of by our traditional rules.”

The poll found that while Biden is gaining an edge among independent voters, Trump is doing better among voters who disapprove of both candidates.

Miringoff also said some of the more unusual electorate patterns in this race “are now starting to normalize” a little bit.

For example, Biden had previously been overperforming expectations among white voters. But since last month's survey, Trump’s percentage point advantage among white voters doubled from a 6-point to a 12-point lead.

Conversely, Biden is starting to improve his support among nonwhite voters. According to this latest poll, Biden (58%) leads Trump (40%) by 18 percentage points. The president previously had an 11-percentage point advantage among this group of voters.

In a broader contest, with independent and third-party candidates, Trump leads Biden, 42%-41%, with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s not yet qualified for CNN’s debate next week, coming in third, at 11% support.

"What's been interesting and continues to be interesting is that Robert Kennedy, who gets the most votes of a minor-party candidate, is drawing from both of them [Biden and Trump] roughly equally,” Miringoff said.

What about Trump’s conviction?

A slim majority of poll respondents — 51% — said Trump definitely or probably should serve prison time after his historic recent hush money conviction in New York. Forty-seven percent said Trump should definitely or probably not be incarcerated.

What voters say about the issues that matter to them

Out of a set list of six issues, a plurality of respondents (30%) said inflation is top of mind when they think about voting in the general election. That was followed by preserving democracy (29%) and immigration (18%).

Comparing Trump and Biden, most respondents said Trump would be better at handling the economy and immigration, while they said the same of Biden on preserving democracy and abortion.

The survey of 1,311 adults was conducted June 10 to 12 by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 3.6 percentage points.


Copyright 2024 NPR

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Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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