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Trump tops his opponents while Biden hits a new low in approval ahead of Iowa caucus: POLL

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The 2024 primary season begins with Donald Trump well ahead of his Republican opponents on key measures of popularity, while Joe Biden’s job approval rating has dropped to a low for any president in the past 15 years, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.

With the Iowa caucuses Monday, the national survey finds Trump especially well rated by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents on three metrics: having the best chance to win in November, being a strong leader and being the party’s most qualified candidate.

Trump also leads his Republican opponents, by less of a margin, on two other attributes — empathy (i.e., understanding the problems of people like you) and shared values. And seven in 10 Republicans and GOP leaners report a favorable opinion of Trump overall.

In all, 72% of Republican-aligned adults would be satisfied with Trump as the nominee, similar to 75% in May. Sixty-one percent would be satisfied with Ron DeSantis. Others score lower — Nikki Haley, satisfactory to 48%; Vivek Ramaswamy, 44%; Chris Christie (who withdrew Wednesday), 23%; and Asa Hutchinson, 17%.

See PDF for full results.

Satisfaction is harder to find among political moderates, who account for about three in 10 Republicans and GOP leaners. They’re 21 points less likely than conservatives to express satisfaction with Trump, 30 points on DeSantis and 22 points on Ramaswamy. These gaps essentially disappear for Haley, Christie and Hutchinson.

Compared with Trump on the Republican side, considerably fewer Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would be satisfied with Biden as their party’s nominee, 57% — a reflection of his weak ratings overall and on issues including the economy and immigration.

This survey was produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates with fieldwork by Ipsos Public Affairs via its online, probability-based KnowledgePanel®. Past polls used for comparison were conducted by telephone, with efforts in this study to minimize differences; that said, mode effects may be a factor in some cases. The survey, fielded in English and Spanish, includes a robust sample of 2,228 respondents.

GOP CONTEST — Trump’s advantages in the Republican contest are particularly striking in terms of perceived electability and leadership. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say he’s the candidate with the best chance of getting elected in November. That plummets to 12% for Haley, 11% for DeSantis and single digits for the rest.

Nearly as many, 65%, peg Trump as the strongest leader in the GOP lineup, again dropping precipitously for his opponents.

Fewer, but still 54%, say he is the candidate best qualified to serve as president. Fewer than half, 46%, say he best understands the problems of people like them and essentially as many, 45%, pick Trump as the candidate who best represents their own personal values. DeSantis and Haley score in the teens on these measures.

An additional 10% pick Ramaswamy as the candidate who best understands their problems. On all other measures, preferences for Ramaswamy, former candidate Christie and Hutchinson all are in single digits.

DeSantis and Haley trail Trump in favorability as well. Compared with Trump’s 71%, 60% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see DeSantis favorably and 46% say the same for Haley. After all her months of campaigning, 22% still don’t offer an opinion of Haley; it’s 13% for DeSantis, vs. 1% for Trump.

There are some notable differences among groups. Republicans and GOP-leaners who have a four-year college degree are less likely than non-graduates to say Trump is best on each of the attributes tested. Most strikingly, just 27% of those with a college degree say Trump best understands the problems of people like them, compared with 57% of those without a four-year degree. There’s a similar 27-point gap by education in saying Trump “best represents your own personal values,” 24 points in saying he’s best qualified, 16 points in seeing him as the strongest leader and 10 points in seeing him as most electable.

Additionally, white evangelical Protestants, a core Republican group, are 11 points less apt than their non-evangelical counterparts to say Trump best represents their values, 40% vs. 51%, a slight difference given sample sizes. At the same time, Trump’s overall favorability rating is higher among evangelicals than in other religious groups, suggesting they’re using a different gauge than shared values to assess him.

BIDEN/TRUMP — A Biden/Trump general election, if that’s the outcome of the primary season, would represent a battle of markedly unpopular candidates. Among all adults, Biden’s approval rating is just 33% in this poll, worse than Trump’s low as president (36%) and the lowest since George W. Bush from 2006-2008. Fifty-eight percent disapprove of Biden’s work.

Among groups, just 31% of women now approve of Biden’s work in office, a new low (as do 34% of men). He won 57% of women in 2020.

He’s at 28% approval among independents, a customary swing voter group; a low of 32% among moderates; and a low of 41% among college graduates, 10 points off his career average in that group.

Further, Biden’s approval rating is 21 points below average among Black people and 15 points below average among Hispanic people, compared with 6 points among white people; more Black people, in particular, offer no opinion.

There’s a striking difference among Black people by age in their views of Biden: He has an approval rating of 65% among Black people age 50 and up, dropping sharply to 32% among Black people younger than 50. Age gaps are not apparent among white or Hispanic people.

Trump’s retrospective job rating is better than Biden’s, but still not positive — looking back, 41% approve of how he handled his presidency, a 7-point drop from four months ago. That includes a 13-point drop among men, with no meaningful change among women; and a 10-point drop among independents.

Another issue for Trump is the question of his ballot access. As reported Friday, 56% of Americans think the U.S. Supreme Court should either order Trump off the ballot in all states (30%) or let each state decide on its own (26%), given his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

FAVORABILITY AND ATTRIBUTES — Personal assessments are about equally negative for both men. Just 33% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Biden — down sharply from 50% the summer before the 2020 election — and about as few, 35%, express a favorable view of Trump. (It’s 28% for DeSantis and Haley alike.)

Biden leads Trump, by 15 points, in one of three attributes tested in the survey — being honest and trustworthy. Forty-one percent say this describes Biden, vs. 26% who say it applies to Trump. That’s down from a high of 38% for Trump, last reached in April 2017, three months into his presidency, and it’s a point from his low on honesty and trustworthiness.

Trump comes back, though, with advantages in two other areas. Forty-seven percent say he has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president, compared with 28% who say this of Biden. And more, 57%, say Trump has the physical health necessary to serve, again compared with 28% for Biden.

Trump’s ratings for mental sharpness and physical health both are down 7 points from last May. Similarly, Biden’s rating for health is down 5 points, and for mental sharpness, 4 points.

THIRD PARTY? — If Biden and Trump were the major-party nominees, 37% say they’d be likely to seriously consider a third-party candidate for president. Fewer, however, say they’d be very likely to do so – 15%. Results are identical among registered voters.

Readiness to seriously consider a third-party candidate in a Biden-Trump rematch peaks at 51% among independent women and moderate women alike. It’s 11 points higher among 2020 Biden voters than 2020 Trump voters, 37 vs. 26%. At the same time, it’s 46% among those who did not vote in 2020, a group that’s less likely than others to turn out this year.

ECONOMY/ISSUES — Broad economic discontent is a key force in current political attitudes. Given 2022’s 40-year high in inflation, just 13% of Americans now say they’ve gotten better off financially since Biden took office; 43% instead say they’re not as well off, a point from the 37-year record set in September. For comparison, in the middle of Trump’s term in office, just one-third as many people, 13%, said they were not as well off.

It follows that just 31% approve of how Biden is handling the economy, while 56% disapprove.

Another question explores why economic attitudes are so glum. Given a choice, 24% say “the economy is in good shape, given low unemployment and rising wages.” Far more — 71% — say “the economy is in bad shape, given higher prices and interest rates.”

unhappy with the economy are more likely to criticize the incumbent president. People who are aligned with the incumbent president are less apt to criticize the economy. So it is in this poll; 90% of Republicans say the economy is in bad shape, as do 74% of independents, compared with 49% of Democrats.

That said, Biden has a tepid 65% approval rating among Democrats for handling the economy, a career low.

The economy isn’t Biden’s only shortfall. His rating for handling immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border is especially low — just 18% approve, about half what it was in spring 2021, while 63% now disapprove. Biden has the lowest rating on immigration for any president in past ABC News/Washington Post polls to ask the question since January 2004 (with various changes over time in question wording).

Biden also gets a poor rating for handling the war between Israel and Hamas, with 26% approving and 48% disapproving; a substantial 25% don’t express an opinion.

That result might reflect frustration with the situation, not so much with Biden, since 43% also say the United States is doing about the right amount to support Israel and 39% say it’s doing about the right amount to help protect Palestinian civilians – both well higher than Biden’s approval for handling the situation.

About three in 10 say the United States is doing too much to support Israel; about two in 10 say it’s doing too little. These are roughly reversed in terms of protecting Palestinian civilians.

Thirty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants think the U.S. is doing too little to support Israel, well higher than this view in other religious groups. Sample sizes of Muslims and Jews are too small for reliable analysis.

A final result, also on the international front, suggests an easing in criticism of U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. The share of Americans saying the United States is doing too much to support Ukraine rose from 14% in April 2022 to 41% in September; it’s down to 34% in this poll. An open question is whether that reflects recognition of Ukraine’s need for help — or the fact that further aid has been blocked in Congress.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted via the probability-based Ipsos KnowledgePanel® Jan. 4-8, 2024, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 2,228 adults. Partisan divisions are 25-25-41 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points, including the design effect, for the full sample. Sampling error is not the only source of differences in polls.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Ipsos. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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