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Biden Bests Trump on Likability; Trump Seen as Better Leader

Biden Bests Trump on Likability; Trump Seen as Better Leader

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are less likely now than they were in 2020 to believe a number of positive personal qualities and characteristics apply to President Joe Biden. The biggest decline has come in the percentage believing Biden is able to manage government effectively, but his scores are down at least six percentage points on each characteristic. Over the same period, public impressions of Donald Trump, Biden’s likely challenger in the 2024 election, haven’t changed to a statically significant degree.


These changes are consistent with the 2020 to 2024 movement in the candidates’ overall favorable ratings. Biden’s most recent favorable rating, 41%, is down eight points from the end of the 2020 campaign, while Trump’s 42% is statistically similar to the 45% 2020 reading.

Gallup tested eight character items for each candidate in a March 1-20 poll -- six that were asked in 2020 plus “is intelligent” and “puts the country’s interests ahead of his own political interests.” More Americans say the two candidates lack most of these eight desirable characteristics. The exceptions are Americans’ perceptions that Biden is likable, that Trump is a strong and decisive leader, and that both men are intelligent.

The net effect of the changes in character ratings since 2020 is that Biden has an advantage on two characteristics, Trump has an advantage on two, and the candidates are statistically tied on four others.

  • Many more Americans say Biden is likable than say Trump is (57% to 37%), while Biden retains a smaller advantage on being honest and trustworthy (46% to 35%).
  • Trump has a big edge on leadership -- 57% to 38% -- the only item he scored better than Biden on in 2020. Trump has gained a modest edge for managing the government (49% to 39%) because of Biden’s lower 2024 rating on that item.
  • The two candidates are evenly matched on two items that were not asked in 2020 -- being intelligent and putting the country’s interests ahead of their own political interests. On two others -- cares about the needs of people like you (Biden 48%, Trump 42%) and displaying good judgment in a crisis (Trump 45%, Biden 40%) -- the differences are not statistically meaningful.

Notably, Biden’s main strength -- likability -- is one of Trump’s biggest weaknesses, along with perceptions that Trump is honest and trustworthy. Similarly, Trump’s top strength -- being a strong and decisive leader -- ranks as Biden’s weakest trait.


Intelligence, Likability Top Biden Character Qualities Among All Party Groups

As would be expected, most Democrats (no less than 75%) believe all eight qualities apply to Biden, while most Republicans disagree. The attributes Republicans are most willing to assign to Biden are that he is likable (26% say this applies) and intelligent (22%). On average, Democratic and Republican ratings differ by about 70 points.

Majorities of independents believe Biden is likable and intelligent, and close to half, 48%, believe Biden cares about the needs of people like them.

Independents are least likely to think Biden can manage government effectively and is a strong and decisive leader. Those traits also rank low for Biden among Democrats and Republicans, though his lowest score among Democrats is for displaying good judgment in a crisis.


Fewer independents now than in 2020 say Biden possesses each of the six characteristics rated in both years, with the declines ranging from seven to 19 points. The largest decline is for being able to manage government effectively, down from 53% to 34%.

Democrats are less likely now than in 2020 to say Biden displays good judgment in a crisis, is a strong and decisive leader, can manage government effectively and cares about the needs of people like them. On these three characteristics, the declines have been nine to 13 points.

Republicans’ ratings of Biden are largely unchanged, except for a 14-point decline in being likable. In 2020, 40% of Republicans thought Biden was likable.

Strong Leadership, Intelligence Trump’s Top Traits Among All Party Groups

The partisan patterns for Trump’s character ratings largely follow those of Biden’s, with most Republicans thinking Trump possesses these good qualities, the vast majority of Democrats thinking he does not, and most independents also disagreeing. The exceptions are that majorities of independents consider Trump to be a strong and decisive leader as well as intelligent. Those two traits also earn him the best reviews from Democrats, and are among his best three ratings from Republicans, along with being able to manage the government effectively.

Republican and Democratic opinions of Trump also differ by about 70 points across the characteristics, with one notable exception, a 50-point difference on likability. This stems from the smaller proportion of Republicans, 63%, who think Trump is likable, compared with typically 80% or more among Republicans being positive about his other characteristics. At 71%, Republicans’ perception that Trump is honest and trustworthy is also subdued.


Perceptions of Trump’s personal qualities among all party groups are largely the same as in 2020, although Republicans are less likely now to believe he is honest and trustworthy (down 12 points) or cares about the needs of people like them (down 10 points).

Bottom Line

American voters face a choice between two candidates they hold in low regard -- they give Biden and Trump weak personal favorability ratings, do not think a series of positive qualities applies to either man, and an elevated three in 10 U.S. adults say neither would make a good president.

Under normal circumstances, the presidential campaign would give the candidates an opportunity to bolster their images for voters. While that still could happen, both Biden and Trump have been national political figures for some time and have well-established images with Americans. Neither Trump nor Biden was popular during his presidency, as evidenced by their generally low job approval ratings.

The 2024 election will differ from the 2020 Trump-Biden contest in one important way: Voters today have significantly less-positive views of Biden overall and of his personal qualities now than four years ago. That might put Biden and Trump on a more level playing field than was the case in 2020. The current election environment could be more similar to 2016, when Trump and Hillary Clinton were the least-liked pair of major-party candidates to face off in an election.

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