Biden's big weakness vs Trump: Voters without college degrees, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds


  • World
  • Saturday, 01 Jun 2024

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East in the State Dining room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 31, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden is hemorrhaging support among voters without college degrees - a large group that includes Black people, Hispanic women, young voters and suburban women - producing a far tighter rematch against his Republican predecessor Donald Trump than seen in 2020, Reuters/Ipsos polling reveals.

Biden's support among voters without a four-year degree is down 10 percentage points, compared to this point in the 2020 campaign, the analysis of around 24,000 registered voter responses to Reuters/Ipsos polls in 2020 and 2024 shows.

Americans without college degrees made up three out of five voters in 2020.

Those declines have helped set the stage for what national opinion polls show is a tied race between Biden and Trump.

The polling was completed before a New York jury on Thursday found Trump guilty of trying to cover a hush-money payment to a porn star.

A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Friday found that one in ten Republican registered voters were less likely to cast ballots for Trump following that verdict, a number that could make a difference in a close race. That poll also showed Biden with a 2 percentage point lead, far below the 6 point lead he held at this point in 2020.

The few bright spots for Biden remain voters with college degrees or households earning more than $100,000 a year, the analysis found.

Reuters looked at the responses of more than 8,000 registered voters in Reuters/Ipsos polls in March through May 2024 and over 16,000 in the same period in 2020.

The analysis found that voters who have grown disenchanted with Biden aren't moving en masse to Trump. Instead, many seem to be throwing their hands up, frustrated with their choices and uncertain what they will do in the Nov. 5 election.

Mary Jo McConnell, 67, of Elba, New York, has soured on both parties after she backed Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.

"They are not providing candidates that I feel are capable of tackling the challenges that we are facing," McConnell said.

McConnell and her husband rely on Social Security benefits. A graduate of a two-year college, she has worked in a cannery and a salt mine. In retirement, she took a pair of part-time jobs to earn extra money as prices spiked. McConnell said she plans to vote in November, but hasn't made up her mind who she'll pick.

In response to Reuters' analysis, the Biden campaign said that national polls provide an incomplete picture of the race because voters outside battleground states aren't seeing the campaign's messaging.

"We are extremely focused on the competitive states and doing outreach and voter contact and campaign events in the competitive states," said Matt Barreto, a pollster for the Biden campaign. "Oftentimes national polls obscure the progress that any campaign is making."

'IT'S SCARY'

A May Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Biden's approval rating falling to the lowest level of his presidency at 36% with just over five months to go to the election.

Worries about the economy have some past Biden voters saying they are ready to at least consider voting for Trump.

Julio Miranda, 47, of Canoga Park, California, said his household expenses have ballooned during Biden's term in office.

Inflation has been a persistent challenge for Biden and while it is off its 2022 peak, grocery prices are up more than 20% since he took office, according to U.S. Labor Department estimates. High interest rates - meant to cool inflation - have made purchases like cars and homes substantially more expensive.

"Forget about me buying a house," said Miranda, who is of Mexican descent and is not a college graduate.

Miranda, who has seen the produce-distribution business he works for struggle with high costs, said he considered Biden's Democrats out of touch, adding, "They're not looking out for middle-class people."

Chris Wells, 47, the owner of a gym in Charleston, South Carolina, voted for Biden in 2020 but now is concerned about the 81-year-old president's age and physical health.

Wells said he won't vote for Trump, 77, but that doesn't mean he'll cast a ballot for Biden either, amid concerns over the economy.

"You don't even know how discouraging it is. It's scary," Wells said. "I might write myself in," he joked.

Biden won the 2020 election by some 7 million votes nationally, but the state-by-state Electoral College system means that U.S. presidential elections can be won and lost in seven highly competitive swing states including Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, which Biden carried by paper-thin margins. It wouldn't take much erosion for those states to flip to Trump.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent and has received double-digit support in many polls, also complicates the matter.

"The reason why Biden is struggling in this presidential race is because he is dropping support, kind of across the board, from voters who were crucial to his coalition in 2020," said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan research group.

"Any sort of significant drop is going to be magnified because the gap separating him from Trump in the most crucial states was quite small."

THE CRUMBLING COALITION

Reuters chose early March to mid-May in both election years to get as close a comparison as possible. By March 2020, Biden was the dominant Democratic presidential candidate and the U.S. was beginning the slide into the COVID pandemic.

Since early March of this year, Biden's share of non-college educated registered voters is down 10 percentage points to 32% from 42% in the same period in 2020. Trump's share of non-college educated voters is up marginally to 44% from 42%.

This year, marginally higher shares of non-college educated voters say they could vote for a third-party candidate, or not at all.

Biden is down marginally - one percentage point - among college-educated voters, while Trump is down 3 points, and slightly higher shares of college grads are eyeing third-party candidates or say they won't vote.

Biden's share of voters in households that make less than $50,000 a year is down 14 points to 33% while Trump is up 5 points to 40%. Trump is down 4 points to 38% among those earning $100,000 plus, while Biden is down 2 points to 43%.

Biden has seen support weaken in other demographic groups that played an important role in his 2020 win.

Among voters aged 18-29, Biden's support fell 11 percentage points, to 37%. Trump is up slightly with this demographic at 30%, while slightly larger shares are undecided or say they won't vote.

Among Hispanic women, Biden is down 19 points to 39%, from 58% in 2020. Relative to 2020, somewhat larger shares say they are undecided, won't vote or lean toward another candidate, including Trump. Biden's support among Hispanic men is roughly steady.

Among Black men and Black women, Biden's support is down 15 points.

Among suburban women, Biden's support dropped 7 points to 42%, with Trump flat at 34%, and compared to 2020 a larger share of them might pick another candidate or not vote at all.

The poll results had levels of precision that varied between about 2 and 6 percentage points.

TURNING TO TRUMP?

Amy Buckingham, a 50-year-old real estate agent and hair stylist in suburban Denver, said that after voting Democratic for most of her life, she's decided to vote for Trump.

"He is a bully. He is unpredictable. However, he makes things happen and he's a businessman," said Buckingham, a married gay woman with two children. "Nobody can make me check a box. I won't be marginalized."

The challenge for the Biden campaign will be finding a way to appeal to these voters, but aides insist that their task is easier than Trump's, who they say may be close to being tapped out in terms of growth potential.

"We just have to make a strong argument to people who are inclined to vote for us, and we'll see those numbers move," said Mark Riddle, president of Future Majority, a Democratic firm that tracks voter sentiment.

"At the end of the day, voters don't want excuses," Riddle said. "They want to see what you're going to do for them."

(Reporting by Jason Lange and James Oliphant; Editing by Scott Malone and Suzanne Goldenberg)

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