The strengths and weaknesses of the four individuals on the presidential tickets

August 24, 2020, 8:43 PM GMT+0

With former Vice President Joe Biden’s official nomination last week, the two parties’ presidential tickets are complete. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three men and one woman running for national office on a major party ticket this year.

One surprise, perhaps. More registered voters describe Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, as a strong leader than say that about any of the three men who have already served in the White House. About half of registered voters view President Donald Trump (49%), Vice President Mike Pence (48%) and Biden (51%) as being very or somewhat strong leaders. But 62 percent of registered voters say that about Harris. Two-thirds of women agree.

Those now voting for President Trump don’t see either of the Democrats as strong leaders, but they are more than twice as likely to say Harris is a strong leader (22%) as to think that’s true of Biden (10%).

Those now voting for President Trump don’t see either of the Democrats as strong leaders, but they are more than twice as likely to say Harris is a strong leader (22%) as to think that’s true of Biden (10%).

Who do Americans like as a person?

Beyond strength, Pence, Biden and Harris are generally seen as personally likeable: more registered voters describe each of them as someone they like more than they don’t. On the other hand, a majority dislike Trump.

Who do Americans see as religious?

Vice President Pence is the candidate most likely to be thought of as someone for whom religion is important. Three in four registered voters say religion is important to Pence, the highest percentage for any of the candidates. Just over half (52%) say religion is important to Biden. Pence, who was raised Catholic, is an evangelical Christian; Biden is a Catholic.

As for both Harris and Trump, about three in five say religion is not too important or not important at all for each of them.

Who do Americans see as honest and trustworthy?

The president is also less likely than the others to be thought of as honest and trustworthy: 40 percent or more say Biden, Harris and Pence are honest (about as many as say each is not honest), but by 56 percent to 35 percent, registered voters say the president is not honest and trustworthy. A majority believes Biden cares about their needs and problems; he is the only one of the four for whom this is the case.

Who is in the lead?

Biden leads Trump in this poll by 10 points (50% to 40%) pretty much the same margin by which he has led the president for the last few weeks. His lead is greatest among the youngest voters, and he has an 18-point lead with women. Although the president leads among white voters (49% to 43%), a strong majority of Black Americans (87%) and of Hispanics (63%) in the poll are voting for Biden. So are 87 percent of the Democrats who favored Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the nomination.

Both candidates have much work to do to get their messages across. More than a third of registered voters don’t have a clear idea of what policies Biden would enact if elected; 45 percent aren’t sure what policies President Trump will pursue if he is re-elected. Most Republicans say they are aware.

The critical concern about presidential candidates is whether they can handle major issues. Voters are more confident about Biden’s management of international crises in general, and of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular. More than half are uneasy about the President on both of these issues (and a majority disapproves of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak).

For vice presidential candidates, the question is always whether they are qualified to serve as President should that become necessary. Registered voters say each one is, and by similar margins:

Pence is viewed as qualified (45% to 39%) and Harris by 45 percent to 41 percent.

Most of this poll was conducted before the start of the Democratic National Convention, so more voters may learn about the Democratic candidates (especially Harris) in the next week. The GOP convention follows this week. Most of the president’s supporters will watch at least his acceptance speech. He’ll deliver his speech from the White House, the appropriateness of which divides voters. By four to one, voters approved of Biden giving his address from Delaware.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The latest Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US registered voters interviewed online between August 16 – 18, 2020. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.4% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty