What are the expectations for a Joe Biden presidency?

November 19, 2020, 8:00 PM UTC

What kind of presidency do Americans expect from Joe Biden? According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, Americans expect it to be very different from that of the current White House occupant. But it is also one that is likely to polarize the country as much as President Donald Trump’s four years in office did.  

How Joe Biden is viewed ideologically 

There are vast differences in how Americans view the President-Elect’s ideology. Most registered voters who supported Donald Trump in the presidential election describe Joe Biden as  very liberal (57%). But, that’s not how Biden voters and self-described liberals view him. Majorities in those groups say Biden is an ideological moderate (several of his opponents in the Democratic primaries positioned themselves to the left of the eventual Democratic nominee).

For the current President, ideological characterization is more consistent across the political spectrum. Majorities of liberals and conservatives, Trump supporters and opponents, see him as a conservative.     

Joe Biden’s strengths with the electorate 

Biden maintains two advantages over President Trump in the way he is personally perceived. Biden is viewed by more voters as likeable and caring. Nearly half of all registered voters (46%) said they like Biden “as a person,” compared with only a third (33%) saying that about President Trump. Only 29% of voters (mostly Trump supporters) say Biden cares not at all about them, while 44% of voters feel that way about President Trump. 

Registered voters also see Biden as more competent than President Trump in several areas, though that is mostly due to negative assessments of President Trump’s performance handling the coronavirus pandemic and international relations.  

About half (46%) of registered voters are confident in Biden’s ability to handle international crises, with 44% uneasy about him. Half (48%) are confident in Biden’s ability to handle the pandemic, but 42% still are uneasy. However, on both these questions voters are negative about President Trump’s performance.  

The President-Elect's weakness remains the economy 

It will, however, be a divided country facing the President-Elect. Just about as many are pessimistic about the next four years with Biden as President as are optimistic (43% vs 45%).  Biden also has skeptics when it comes to his performance on the number one issue for Trump voters this year: the economy. Two in five voters think the economy is currently getting worse, with two in five expecting it will get worse during a Biden presidency. 

The economy has been one of the President’s strongest areas. Despite the downturn and the jobless rate rise caused by the pandemic, a majority of voters approve of President Trump’s handling of the “jobs and the economy”. In this week’s poll, 52% approve, while 42% disapprove.   

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

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between November 15 - 17, 2020. This 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 3.2% for the overall sample.    

Image: Getty