Trump trails Biden by 8 points despite record high approval: poll

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE trails former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins MORE by 8 percentage points in a new national survey, despite the president’s approval-rating matching an all-time high.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll found Trump’s job approval rating at 49 percent, the highest since March 2017.

The survey also found that 56 percent of voters approved of Trump’s handling of the economy and 51 percent supported his handling of the coronavirus — the top two issues on the minds of voters.

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However, 55 percent said they dislike Trump personally. Thirty-three percent of respondents said they like the president, and only 25 percent of independents had a favorable view of him.

“President Trump continues a slow, steady improvement in his job ratings over the last six months and through the crisis,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris director Mark PennMark PennThe Supreme Court vacancy — yet another congressional food fight Trump, Biden battle over rush for COVID-19 vaccine The 7 keys to victory in the presidential race MORE told The Hill. “People still give him high marks in the economy but also back his handling in immigration, terrorism and running the government to a growing extent along with his response to the virus."

“His chances of reelection are exponentially higher at 49 than when he was at 44 job approval,” Penn added. “His personal style, not his actions, continue to hold him back.”

Other recent surveys have put Trump's approval in the mid-40s. In the FiveThirtyEight average, Trump’s rating jumped from 42 percent to 46 percent last month, but it has since receded to an average of 44 percent.

In a head-to-head matchup, Biden leads Trump 54 percent to 46 percent among registered voters in the new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll. When the field of voters was narrowed to only “very likely” voters, Biden’s lead narrowed to 4 points — 52 to 48 — suggesting Trump’s voters are more energized.

Biden’s favorability rating was the same as Trump’s, at 49 percent.

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However, 55 percent of voters said the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is better suited to manage a pandemic. By a 16-point margin, voters were likelier to say Biden cares about them. Fifty-nine percent said he is better at bringing people together.

“Biden still does well in the head to heads, largely on his personal likability and strength in core democratic issues like health care, education and climate change,” said Penn. “But he lags on the key economic issue and has yet to face a direct side-by-side confrontation with Trump. Importantly, the race narrows considerably when we look at likely and very likely voters, revealing more enthusiasm in the Republican base compared to Democrats.”

Economic pessimism is on the rise as the coronavirus spreads, presenting a challenge for Trump as he seeks reelection.

Fifty-eight percent of voters said the economy was on the wrong track, compared to 32 percent who said the opposite, a 20 point drop since January.

While 56 percent of Republicans said the economy is on the right track, 78 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents said it wasn't.

Sixty-three percent of voters described the economy as weak.

“This shift in economic satisfaction to economic fear is unprecedented in its swiftness in modern times,” said Penn.

A plurality of voters, 40 percent, said their financial situation was getting worse, compared to 33 percent who said they’re just as well off and 21 percent who said their situation is improving during the pandemic.

A majority of voters, 54 percent, said they expect the economy to be in a recession six months from now.

Trump holds only a very narrow lead on the question of who is better on job creation, with 51 percent saying Trump and 49 percent picking Biden.

“This is a dramatic swing in attitudes towards the economy, and we were at record lows before the virus of voters in a worsening economic situation and that has doubled overnight,” Penn said. “Who can fix the economy again will likely be the big issue this fall.”

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 2,394 registered voters was conducted April 14-16. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2020.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.