For Donald J. Trump, a new set of polls from the New York Times and Siena College capture a surprising and seemingly contradictory picture.
His 91 felony charges in four different jurisdictions have not significantly hurt him among voters in battleground states. However, he remains weaker than at least one of his Republican rivals, and if he is convicted and sentenced in any of his cases, some voters appear ready to turn against him, to the point that he could lose the 2024 election.
Trump leads President Biden in five key battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, according to Times/Siena polls. He has significantly leveraged Biden’s advantages among younger, Black and Hispanic voters, many of whom hold positive views on the policies Trump enacted as president. And Trump appears to have room to grow, as more voters say they are open to supporting the former president than backing Biden, and a large share of voters say they trust Trump on the economy and national security.
But the results reveal the complex way voters continue to view Trump, his presidency and his legal problems.
Polls found that, for the most part, Trump is politically surviving the criminal charges against him before voting begins in the Republican primaries. He leads Biden by 4 to 10 percentage points in five of the six battleground states surveyed. In a sixth state, Wisconsin, Biden had a slight lead. Most voters say Trump’s policies helped them personally. About the same share of voters say they have been harmed by Biden’s policies.
The former president’s performance in these head-to-head polls appears to be due in equal measure to Biden’s vulnerabilities, Trump’s strength, and the electorate’s bad mood and pessimism about the economy. The polls underscore the fact that, in close elections like those of the last two presidential elections and what is expected to be 2024, even marginal changes in voting patterns can be enough to tilt a state toward one candidate.
The core of Trump’s strength remains his perceived ability to manage the economy, at least as compared to Biden. More than half of voters say the economy is in bad shape, despite a multibillion-dollar push by Biden’s allies to promote his efforts to rebuild the country after the pandemic. As voters perceive the country is headed in the wrong direction, Trump appears to benefit from being out of the White House, out of the spotlight and unaccountable when things go wrong.
Voters trust Trump more than Biden to manage the economy by a margin of 22 percentage points. On the economy, Trump enjoys greater confidence across all age groups, among white and Hispanic voters, and across the educational spectrum. In most of these states, the share of voters who say they vote based on the economy, as opposed to social issues, has increased since last November’s midterm elections.
“Jobs are down because Biden didn’t know how to handle the pandemic,” said Mónica Fermín, 51, of Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Trump didn’t know it at first, but Biden was even worse.”
Fermín, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic as a teenager, worried that Biden’s immigration policies had put additional economic pressure on the country. He voted for Biden in 2020 over concerns about Trump’s temperament, but this time his concerns are focused primarily on Biden. «Biden is too old and doesn’t have the mental capacity,» he said. “We need someone stronger. “I think Trump can deliver this time.”
Trump, however, remains in a weaker position than those developments might make him appear.
If the former president is convicted and sentenced (as many of his allies hope he will be in the Jan. 6-related trial next year in Washington, D.C.), about 6 percent of voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin say they would change their votes in favor of Biden. That would be enough, potentially, to decide the election.
Kurt Wallach, 62, a registered Republican from Maricopa County in Arizona, said he voted for Trump in 2020 and thought the former president had done generally well in office, except at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But now, considering the pending criminal cases, his opinion has changed.
«If he was convicted, I’d say great, we’d take him out of the race and find another Republican,» Wallach said. «If he hasn’t been convicted, I would probably vote for Trump.»
Dakota Jordan, 26, also from Maricopa County, did not vote in the 2020 election. She said she would prefer not to have Trump in office at all, but that “given the options,” she would vote for him over Biden. without a criminal conviction. «If he was convicted, there is absolutely no way, I can’t elect a criminal as my leader,» she said.
In fact, Trump remains widely unpopular.
Most voters in swing states view him negatively. And Times/Siena polls show that another Republican candidate, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, would lead Trump over Biden by 3 percentage points in these six states. In a matchup pitting Biden against a generic Republican candidate, the Republican candidate wins by 16 percentage points.
Trump is performing better against Biden than his main rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has tried to anchor his anti-Trump campaign on the idea that the former president who lost the 2020 election cannot win another one. These polls significantly hamper DeSantis’ arguments on electability.
Even in a weaker position than some of his rivals, Trump has put together a surprisingly diverse coalition for a Republican.
Among voters under 30, generally a core constituency of the Democratic Party, Trump is just one percentage point behind Biden. Such a result would seem implausible if it did not follow the trends observed in many public and private surveys. In 2020, Biden won that age group by 33 percent in these states.
Younger voters say they trust Trump more than Biden on national security and the economy, saying the latter is crucial to their vote by a two-to-one margin on social issues like abortion and democracy.
«The way Biden has handled the conflict in the Middle East is certainly the most important factor for me,» said Hamza Rahman, 21, of Warren, Michigan, who said he was concerned about U.S. involvement in several global conflicts and that has relied on social networks. sites like TikTok to help understand what is really happening on the ground.
Rahman, who voted for Biden in 2020, is considering Trump this time, but said he struggled with the choice. «I’m very frustrated with Biden, but Trump’s not great either,» he said. «It’s like picking up a sword or a dagger.»
Trump’s gains among voters of color (especially voters without a college degree and especially men) are pronounced and follow recent trends. In these polls, the more diverse a battleground state is, the better Trump performs against Biden. Trump leads Biden by 10 percentage points in Nevada, six in Georgia and five in Arizona, all states that Biden won in 2020 with a coalition made up of suburban voters and voters of color.
Trump’s 22 percent support among African Americans is both a modern first for a Republican and a considerable improvement over the 8 percent he had in the same states in Times/Siena polls in 2020.
“I like what Trump is for,” said John Royster, 55, a truck driver from Atlanta who is Black and voted for Biden in 2020. “Sometimes he tells lies, but he says what he thinks; I can appreciate that.”
Trump has come a particularly long way among Hispanic voters.
He began his 2016 campaign by declaring that Mexico was sending rapists and criminals across the border, and won the support of 28 percent of Hispanics nationally in that election, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2020, Trump’s support among Hispanics rose to 36 percent in his race against Biden, according to Pew.
Trump now has the support of 42 percent of Hispanic voters in swing states. And he does better among Hispanic voters than his two main rivals, Haley and DeSantis. Trump’s team is trying to build on those gains, booking an interview with Univision that will air this week and directing appeals to immigrants from Latin America (particularly in parts of Florida) who are hostile to anything called «socialism.»
For many Hispanic voters, the state of the economy has played an important role in choosing their candidate. Hispanic voters are three times more likely to say economic issues are important in deciding their vote than social issues, and they are 20 points more likely to trust Trump than Biden to handle the economy.
Elaine Ramirez, 38, a Democrat from Las Vegas, said Biden promised to help the economy and reduce inflation, promises she said he has not kept.
“I think for me it’s all of Biden’s broken promises that make me want to switch to Trump,” said Ramirez, who voted for Biden in 2020 and is considering voting for Trump. “In 2020, I didn’t like what Trump had to say and his womanizing wasn’t very good. But Trump is also more dominant and aggressive and maybe we need someone like that to fix our economy and our country.”
The New York Times/Siena College polls of 3,662 registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were conducted by telephone using live operators from October 22 to November 3, 2023. When all states are combined , the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for each state is between 4.4 and 4.8 percentage points. Crosstabs and methodology are available here.