Less than three months away from the 2020 presidential election, most Americans believe the United States is off on the wrong track (70%). This has raised questions of whether the current sitting president, Donald Trump, is leading the country well enough and if his challenger, Joe Biden, can do any better if he wins this November.
Two recent YouGov snap polls reveal that large shares of voters evaluate the leadership of both Trump and Biden as weak. By 54 percent to 45 percent, registered voters say Trump is a weak leader. Opinions of Biden’s leadership are more closely divided, with 48 percent of voters saying he is a weak leader and 47 percent saying he is a strong one.
Voters’ views of each nominee differ sharply depending on political party affiliation. On Biden's leadership, 82 percent of Democrats say he is a strong leader and 13 percent say he is a weak one. Just 6 percent of Republicans say Biden is a strong leader and more than nine in 10 say he is a weak one (91%).
On Trump’s leadership, 91 percent of Republicans say he is a strong leader and 8 percent say he is a weak one. Nearly nine in 10 Democrats evaluate Trump’s leadership as weak but a greater share of Democrats say Trump is a strong leader (11%) when compared with the number of Republicans who say the same about Biden (6%).
Why people feel the way they do about Joe Biden’s leadership
We posed the same questions on Trump and Biden’s leadership to YouGov chat users and followed up by asking chat users to describe in their own words the specific reasons why they feel that way about each nominee’s perceived leadership — whether it be strong or weak.
Keeping in mind that the results in this part of the analysis are unweighted, let’s begin with what YouGov chat users say about Joe Biden. Out of the 4,781 chat users who say Biden is a strong leader, 22 percent say the most compelling reason relates to his years of experience as a politician. They cite his ability to work across the political aisle — keeping Americans as a whole in mind and not just Democrats. As one user puts it, ”Joe Biden has decades of strong political experience, he's shown himself to be a flexible and effective politician capable of working well with others. He has compassion and intelligence.”
“Part of it is age and part of it is the gaffes he makes in speaking - the two are somewhat interconnected, but he's been making gaffes for years. They've increased recently. I just don't feel like a 77-year-old man - ANY 77-year-old man - is the best choice for president in our current climate. I appreciate the wealth of experience Joe Biden brings, but he's also been out of office for several years, and once you start to slow down, it's hard to speed back up again.”
As the quote above mentions, chat users who say Biden is a weak leader call into question his ability to lead especially at his age and do not appear to be impressed with his public speaking. The data reveals that of the 4,678 write-in responses chat users gave explaining why Biden is a weak leader, 38 percent of the responses touch upon the idea that he is too old. Another 23 percent mention he is bad at public speaking.
Why people feel the way they do about Donald Trump’s leadership
There are sharp differences in the reasons people attribute to Trump’s leadership compared with what they said about Biden. Chat users who say Trump is a strong leader cite "he says what he wants" (30%), suggesting that he does not pander and merely says what others may want to hear. Echoing this, another 15 percent say he is "authoritative" and use words such as “decisive” and “gets things done” to describe his strengths. One user wrote that “[Trump is] confident, doesn’t back down,” echoing what six percent of users say makes him such a strong leader. But not everyone thinks that Trump’s confidence translates to effective leadership.
“He makes bold statements and takes erratic actions to try to look strong but fails to follow through to accomplish anything. When faced with serious decisions he ignores the problem, says it is someone else’s problem, or simply denies responsibility.”
Perceptions of President Trump’s weak leadership most often include mentions of his erratic behavior (14%) and his reluctance to listen to others (9%). Despite his first term drawing to a close, some users still say Trump is “inexperienced”, a perceived flaw compounded by his “[refusal] to listen to those that are experienced and knowledgeable in their specific department,” as one user puts it.
Every day, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data from YouGov Direct to show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results.
YouGov chat seeks to add to the ‘what?’ (the quantitative poll result) by finding the ‘why?” (qualitative open ends) in a member’s own words. Learn more about YouGov Chat here.
The snap polls are each based on the interviews of 1,200 US adults who identify as registered voters and surveyed via YouGov Direct. The poll on Joe Biden's leadership was conducted August 4, 2020 between 11:48 a.m. and 1:56 p.m. The poll on Donald Trump's leadership was conducted on August 6, 2020 between 10:11 a.m. and 12:13 p.m. These YouGov Direct poll are weighted according to age, gender, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote.
The second half of the article that mentions results from YouGov chat users are all based on unweighted responses.