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Biden, Trump Tied in Favorability Before Felony Conviction

Biden, Trump Tied in Favorability Before Felony Conviction

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Gallup poll conducted in May found President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump tied in favorability, with 46% of Americans viewing each favorably and just over half unfavorably when rated on a 10-point scale.

The May 1-23 results are based on Gallup’s historical “scalometer” measure, in which Americans give their impressions of public figures in degrees -- rating them from +1 to +5 if their view is favorable and -1 to -5 if their view is unfavorable.

Trump More Polarizing Than Biden

The poll was taken before Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts related to hush money payments in 2016. Already, Americans held more extreme views of the former president than of Biden, with more feeling strongly favorable toward him, as well as more strongly unfavorable.

  • Twenty-five percent of Americans viewed Trump highly favorably in May as indicated by scores of +5 and +4, five percentage points higher than the 20% viewing Biden this favorably.
  • At the same time, Trump’s 40% highly unfavorable score (-5 and -4) exceeded Biden’s 35% by five points.

Gallup occasionally asks this question to allow for comparison of modern-day presidents and presidential candidates with the same figures from 1956 to 1984, years when the scalometer question was Gallup’s standard favorability measure. Gallup adopted a four-point favorable scale in 1988 but, except for election-year updates of the scalometer, since 1992 has measured the candidates mainly by asking respondents if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of them.

Parity on Favorability Reflects Improved Positioning for Trump

Trump’s overall favorable rating today matches his scalometer score at the end of the 2020 presidential campaign but is higher than the 36% he received in November 2016. Conversely, Biden’s favorable rating is down from 54% in 2020, while it roughly matches Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 47% in 2016.

Accordingly, the tie between the presumptive 2024 presidential nominees in the latest poll contrasts with the end of the 2020 and 2016 campaigns, when the Democratic candidates led on this measure. In both years, the Democrat won the national popular vote, although Trump won the Electoral College vote in 2016, while Biden did so in 2020.


Historically Low Presidential Favorability Persists

Should the current ratings continue until Election Day, this would be only the second presidential election in Gallup’s trend that both major-party nominees were below 50% in favorability. The other was 2016. Before 2016, the only such candidate who went into the election with a sub-50% favorable rating was the 1964 Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater.

Given the general decline in favorable ratings for this measure since 1976, partly reflecting increased polarization of Americans’ political views in recent times, low candidate favorable ratings are likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future.


Biden Liked by Majorities of Women, People of Color and Older Americans

Naturally, most Democrats, 88%, view Biden favorably, using the scalometer ratings, although this is down slightly from 92% in 2020. However, he is also viewed favorably by majorities of people of color (58%), women (53%) and adults 55 and older (53%).

Aside from Republicans, Biden’s lowest favorable ratings are from 18- to 34-year-olds (33%), men (39%) and White adults (40%).

Since 2020, Biden’s favorable score has declined the most among adults aged 18 to 34, falling 25 points from 58% to 33%. This contrasts with little to no change among middle-aged and older adults.

His favorable score has declined from 75% to 58% among people of color, while barely changing among White adults. It has also fallen much more among political independents (down 17 points to 43%) than among either partisan group and fallen more among men (-11) than women (-5).


Trump’s Image Buoyed by Strong GOP Backing

Among demographic groups, Trump is best liked by Republicans, White adults and men -- the three groups in which majorities rate him favorably. Notably, Trump’s 95% favorable score from Republicans (on par with his 93% 2020 reading) exceeds Biden’s 88% among Democrats -- a potential indicator of partisan turnout propensity. The difference is even more pronounced when one looks at their highly favorable scores, with 63% of Republicans rating Trump a +5 or +4, versus Biden’s 44% from Democrats. (In 2020, those figures were 73% and 51%, respectively.)

More generally, as of May, Trump’s demographic ratings had changed less than Biden’s since the fall of 2020, increasing by at most eight points (among people of color and young adults) and slipping no more than six points, as seen among older Americans.


Bottom Line

According to Gallup’s preliminary scalometer reading, 2024 will mark the third consecutive presidential campaign in which no more than a bare majority of Americans have favorable views of either major-party candidate. It differs from the past two in that the two candidates are at parity in favorability rather than the Democrat being ahead. However, whether that persists in the wake of Trump’s felony conviction and whatever sentencing or appellate decisions occur in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen.

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