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Trump Looking Better in the Rearview Mirror

Remember when …

When a new New York Times/Siena Poll made landfall on April 13, America’s newspaper of record headlined it: “Donald Trump leads Joe Biden, 46% to 45%, among registered voters.” However, the graphs and cross tabs paint a more nuanced picture regarding the upcoming presidential contest – one that The Times waited until the following day to reveal. In the news business, that’s called burying the lead. A closer look at the survey revealed that Americans look more fondly in the rearview mirror on the Trump years. How so?

Registered voters’ views regarding the Trump presidency demonstrated a marked improvement in several key areas in the period between 2020 and 2024:

  • Trump’s handling of the economy – up 10%
  • He left the country better off – up 9%
  • Trump’s ability to maintain law and order – up 8%
  • Trump’s ability to unify America – up 4%
  • His handling of the COVID crisis – up 3%
  • His handling of the US Supreme Court – up 1%

How is Biden faring on these issues? Only 18% strongly approve of his job on the economy. Twenty-six percent have the same level of approval for the president’s handling of the pandemic while 17% say he’s been effective in the area of maintaining law and order. Here’s the real kicker: On “unifying America” – an issue that Biden has made a centerpiece of his presidency – only 16% strongly agree that he’s done a good job at tamping down the rancor in American politics.

The New York Times reported that the changes in perspective are coming from a few demographic areas – Hispanics as well as lower- and middle-income voters. The article also pointed out that many presidents are viewed more positively once they leave office, and that the afterglow hasn’t changed, even though Trump is a former president and current candidate.

Trump the Second Time Around

Attracting a larger swath of voters from outside a candidate’s party is critical to winning, and here again Trump came out ahead: In statistics culled from a group of 1,059 registered voters — 32% self-identified as Democrats, 26% as Republicans, and 32% as independents — 42% of those polled said they will vote for him compared to 40% for Biden. This is evidence that Trump is looking better to those outside his party and broadening his appeal across the electorate landscape. Notably, 43% of those who answered the survey voted for Biden in 2020, while 36% said they checked the box for Trump. Any way you turn it, Trump is gaining on Biden.

Despite all the media coverage that claims Americans don’t want either candidate, the three other contenders in the presidential race aren’t getting much support. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tops this group at only 2%, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein and independent Cornel West are only polling at half of 1%.

Every survey always has the so-called money question, i.e., where the rubber meets the road. In this poll, that question was: “Do you generally remember the years that Donald Trump was president as mostly good years for America, mostly bad years for America, or not really good or bad?” Forty-two percent said Trump was “mostly good for America,” while only 25% answered yes for Biden.

The RealClearPolitics average has Biden and Trump in a virtual dead heat, and many political experts will point out that Biden’s numbers have risen since his State of the Union message. The question is: Are these aggregates only a mile wide and an inch deep? When one digs into the minutia, Trump’s appeal has not lost its luster and may in fact appear a bit more rosy in hindsight.

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

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