Registered voters favor Joe Biden but are skeptical he can beat President Trump

April 23, 2020, 4:10 PM UTC

Joe Biden may be the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, but the former vice president has a unique problem among registered voters: a lot of people who prefer him don’t think he’ll win.

Biden holds his six-point lead over President Donald Trump when registered voters are asked how they will vote. But when those voters are asked who will win the election, confidence in a Biden win is just 43 percent. 

Not only do a majority of registered voters not think Biden will win the November election, neither do almost one in five of his own anticipated voters. As for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supporters, about four in 10 expect a Trump victory (41%).

Some Americans may be recalling the 2016 election, when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote, but was defeated in the Electoral College, and expect a similar result this year. 

But others may be contemplating what has been President Trump’s strongest argument for re-election: the economy.  

Biden’s economy numbers

When registered voters are asked about the direction of the economy if Biden or Trump wins in November, Trump does better: slightly more say it will get better rather than worse if he is re-elected, while for Biden, the assessment is in the other direction.

The president has managed to maintain a relatively high approval rating throughout his presidency when it comes to judging his performance handling the economy. This week, 51 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove. That evaluation continues to outpace his overall approval rating (46%), and the evaluations of his handling of the coronavirus (46%).

Economic numbers are shifting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and that may or may not play in Biden’s favor down the line. 

What’s clear right now is that Sanders supporters haven’t broken for Biden. 

Nearly a quarter of the Democratic primary voters who favored the Vermont senator have yet to say they would vote for Biden. Nearly one in five Sanders supporters say they will either vote for Trump, a third-party candidate, or won’t vote at all. About one in 12 Sanders supporters (8%) aren’t sure what they will do. 

That resistance comes in the face of Sanders’ endorsement of Biden in April. It appears that relatively few of those Democratic voters who favored Sanders were moved by it, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll

Biden received three endorsements prior to the poll: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, President Barack Obama, and Sanders. 

Among all Democratic voters, the Obama endorsement mattered most: 36 percent of Democratic primary voters said that made them more likely to support Biden. But among Sanders supporters, just 23 percent said this. Even Sanders’ own endorsement of Biden had little impact on his voters: just 22 percent of them said that endorsement made them more likely to vote for Biden. For two-thirds of the Sanders supporters, there was little impact: they say it makes no difference to their November vote.

Presidential politics

Related: Toss-up states trust Joe Biden and governors more than President Trump on COVID-19

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

Image: Getty