The divided electorate agrees on one thing: They really don’t like the other candidate

July 25, 2020, 7:00 PM UTC

America may be divided on which candidate they support this year. But most registered voters agree on one thing: the person they are not supporting would be an unacceptable president. More than eight in 10 of those voting to re-elect Donald Trump in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll view former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee very unfavorably (82%). More than nine in 10 Biden supporters say the same about the President (96%).

As for those registered voters who have yet to (or say they currently choose not to) vote for the president or for Biden, they don’t like either man. Less than one in five like each of the candidates. Somewhat fewer of them have an unfavorable opinion of Biden than of Trump. That’s especially true when it comes to these voters who have very unfavorable opinions. They are 13 points more likely to say that about the President (35%) than about Biden (48%). 

The characterizations that voters give about each of the two major party nominees echo the criticisms and positive comments made by their campaigns. Some of the characterizations about the two men have been made for years. Asked to describe each candidate in one word, Trump supporters were most likely to describe the president as “strong,” “patriotic,” “great,” and a “leader.” But Biden supporters question Trump’s competence and his mental state. Four years ago, words like “narcissist,” “arrogant” and “dangerous” were part of descriptions Hillary Clinton voters gave when asked about then-candidate Trump. They still are words used by Biden supporters.  

On the other hand, Biden supporters define the Democrat as “honest and trustworthy,” “competent and experienced,” and “empathetic and caring.” Trump supporters, however, were most likely to call the former vice president “old,” “weak” and “incompetent.” Four years ago, Trump supporters focused on different words when it came to describing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. They were most likely to call her a “liar” and “corrupt.”  

In this week’s poll, Biden holds a seven-point lead over the President, 48 percent to 41 percent, among registered voters. His lead in the past few Economist/YouGov Polls has ranged from seven to nine points. Biden may be helped by the perception that he is more empathetic, honest and caring than the incumbent. More registered voters say Biden is likeable than say that about the president, believe he cares about people like them more, and is honest and trustworthy. 

Biden appears to have closed a strength gap with the president. Just about as many registered voters (47%) call him a strong leader (47%) as say that about the president (48%).  

There is also a shrinking gap when it comes to enthusiasm. The president’s supporters are far more likely than Biden’s supporters to be extremely enthusiastic about their candidate, (63% to 44%) but there is little difference between the two sets of supporters in being enthusiastic about voting this year. Half (53%) of Biden supporters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting, as are 55 percent of Trump supporters. Majorities of both Trump supporters (52%) and Biden supporters (56%) claim they are more enthusiastic this election than in previous elections. However, the enthusiasm of Biden supporters may come more because of dislike of the President than a from a special liking for Biden. Half of Biden supporters are mainly voting against the President (54%). By three to one, however, Trump supporters are voting for the President (74%).  

Trump supporters, like their candidate, would like to see a return of traditional campaigning and also want a traditional convention. Biden voters would cancel the conventions because of COVID-19. Biden supporters would also hold back on traditional campaigning.

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

Methodology
: The most recent Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US adult citizens interviewed online between July 19 - 21, 2020. The approximate margin of error is 3.2 percentage points for the overall sample. Samples are 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.

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