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Most Democrats want Biden to drop out, but overall race is static, poll finds

Most Democrats nationwide say that President Biden should end his reelection campaign based on his performance in the presidential debate two weeks ago, according to a Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll.

The poll results contradict Biden’s claim that only party elites want him to step aside. He has said that positive interactions with supporters on the campaign trail have helped persuade him to stay in the race after a debate in which he trailed off and occasionally appeared confused. But the poll finds that 56 percent of Democrats say that he should end his candidacy, while 42 percent say he should continue to seek reelection. Overall, 2 in 3 adults say the president should step aside, including more than 7 in 10 independents.

The poll finds Biden and former president Donald Trump in a dead heat in the contest for the popular vote, with both candidates receiving 46 percent support among registered voters. Those numbers are nearly identical to the results of an ABC-Ipsos poll in April.

That finding is at odds with some other recent public polls. Across eight other post-debate national polls tracked by The Post, Trump leads by 3.5 percentage points on average, compared with a one-point Trump edge in those same polls before the debate. Biden led Trump by between nine and 11 points in averages of public polls at this point in the campaign four years ago. He ended up winning by 4.5 points.

The president and his campaign team have spent the week seeking to enlist support from important Democratic Party constituencies, including the Congressional Black Caucus, labor leaders and key progressive legislators, but with limited success. By early Wednesday evening, 13 Democrats in the House and Senate had called for Biden to drop out, though one, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), has since softened his position.

Also on Wednesday, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Biden to make a decision about whether to drop out of the presidential race, a sign that she and other Democrats don’t believe that Biden’s statements insisting he will stay in have settled the issue.

The poll shows the degree to which Democrats across the country were alarmed by what they saw in the debate. Many Democrats fear that, if Biden continues his candidacy, Trump could have an easier path to victory and that Republicans could end up holding majorities in both the House and Senate, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said during an interview on CNN on Tuesday night.

The survey finds little change in Biden’s job approval, with 57 percent disapproving, identical to the percentage in an April ABC-Ipsos poll. Among Democrats, 75 percent approve of Biden’s performance while 22 percent disapprove, also little changed in the past few months. Americans’ views of Trump and his performance as president has also changed little since before the debate, with 43 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.

Yet last month’s debate, which most Americans say they watched or followed news about, appears to have heightened concerns about Biden’s age and fitness for office. The share of Americans saying Biden is more mentally sharp than Trump dropped from 23 percent in April to 14 percent this month. The share saying Biden is in better physical health than Trump dropped from 20 percent to 13 percent.

Trump did not make large gains on these questions; instead, growing numbers say neither candidate has the sharpness or physical health needed for the presidency. Most Americans say both Biden and Trump are too old to serve another term as president, rising from 53 percent in April to 58 percent now. The share saying only Biden is too old is unchanged at 28 percent, along with the 2 percent who say only Trump is too old.

In total, 85 percent say Biden is too old while 60 percent say Trump is too old. In April, 81 percent said Biden was too old and 55 percent said Trump was too old.

Still, the new poll does not show movement in the voters’ intentions since the debate. In April, registered voters split 46 percent for Biden and 45 percent for Trump, with both now at 46 percent. Each candidate’s strength is among his party, with 92 percent of Democratic voters saying they’d vote for Biden in a two-way race and 93 percent of Republicans saying they’d support Trump. Among self-identified independents, the two are virtually tied, with Trump at 42 percent and Biden at 40 percent.

When third-party candidates are included, the margin between Biden and Trump does not shift significantly, with 42 percent supporting Biden and 43 percent supporting Trump. Another 9 percent of registered voters support Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 2 percent for Cornel West and 2 percent for Jill Stein.

Democrats have not come to a consensus about who should replace Biden if he steps aside, though Vice President Harris has far more support than other potential candidates.

In response to an open-ended question, 29 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents volunteered Harris, while 7 percent mentioned California Gov. Gavin Newsom, 4 percent named Michelle Obama and 3 percent apiece named Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Half did not name a specific individual as an alternative to Biden.

In a separate question, 70 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they would be “satisfied” if Harris replaced Biden as the party’s presidential nominee. That rises to 85 percent among Black Democrats, but large majorities of Democrats across demographic groups also say they’d be satisfied with Harris.

Harris faces more headwinds from the broader electorate, with 53 percent of Americans overall saying they’d be dissatisfied with Harris replacing Biden as the Democratic nominee, including 58 percent of political independents. Two-thirds of Black Americans (67 percent) would be satisfied with Harris replacing Biden, compared with 51 percent of Hispanic Americans and 38 percent of Whites.

But in a separate ballot test, the poll finds Harris receiving 49 percent to Trump’s 47 percent among registered voters. But that two-point difference is not statistically significant. There are also not large differences between Harris’s coalition and Biden’s, with almost all demographic groups statistically even on both Biden and Harris. One exception are voters who “disapprove somewhat” of Biden’s performance: 60 percent support Harris against Trump, compared with 50 percent who support Biden.

The Post-ABC-Ipsos poll finds a sharp racial divide within Biden’s party over his candidacy, with 63 percent of Black Democrats saying Biden should continue while 59 percent of Hispanic Democrats and 64 percent of White Democrats say Biden should step aside based on his debate performance. Democrats older than 50 are roughly divided over whether Biden’s should continue, while 6 in 10 younger Democrats say he should step aside.

There is no ideological divide among Democrats about whether Biden should quit the race or remain as a candidate, with 55 percent of liberal Democrats wanting Biden to drop out along with 57 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats saying the same.

In a rousing campaign rally the day after the debate, Biden said “I might not walk as easily or talk as smoothly as I used to,” but “what I do know is how to tell the truth.” He criticized Trump for lying and making repeated false claims during the debate.

Perceptions of honesty stand out as a clear advantage for Biden against Trump, with 39 percent of Americans saying Biden is more honest and trustworthy than Trump. Twenty-two percent say Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Biden and 39 percent who say neither is honest.

The Post-ABC-Ipsos poll finds Biden holds smaller advantages over Trump on which candidate “represents your personal values” and whether he will “protect American democracy.”

Yet Americans split almost evenly on which candidate “understands the problems of people like you,” with 34 percent saying Biden is more empathetic, 32 percent saying Trump is and 34 percent saying neither is. Four years ago, a Post-ABC telephone poll found Biden with a 17 percentage-point advantage on a similar question.

The poll finds the CNN debate in Atlanta was a political debacle for Biden but not a triumph for Trump. Just 7 percent of Americans say Biden won the debate, while 46 percent say Trump won and 45 percent say neither prevailed or that it was a tie. Half of Americans say the debate made them think “less favorably” of Biden while less than one-quarter say this about Trump.

Half of all adults (50 percent) say that, based on his performance at the debate, Trump should step aside while 47 percent say he should remain in the race. But the big difference between Biden and Trump is that almost 9 in 10 Republicans continue to favor Trump continuing to run and a much larger majority of independents say Biden should get out than say the same about the former president.

The Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll was conducted July 5-9 among 2,431 U.S. adults through the Ipsos KnowledgePanel, a survey panel recruited through random sampling of households across the country. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points; the error margin is 3.5 points among the sample of 825 self-identified Democrats and three points among the sample of 1,255 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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