Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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LOWELL – Former Vice President Joe Biden has a 10-point lead over President Donald Trump in the contest for the White House in a new national poll of likely voters released today by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

Including the minor party candidates on the ballot, Biden leads with 53% of likely voters, Trump has 43%, other candidates are at 2% and only 3% of likely voters say they are still undecided, according to the independent, nonpartisan poll.

The relatively low number of undecided voters is underscored by the fact that 16% of likely voters have already voted. Just over two-thirds of voters said they plan to eschew their traditional Election Day polling place in 2020 and either vote by mail (45%) or vote early in person (22%).

“Biden’s double-digit lead signals that the president’s hopes of re-election are dwindling, with less than three weeks until Election Day and many voters already voting early and by mail,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science.

Biden leads Trump among voters with a college degree, 62% to 36%. Among those without a bachelor’s degree, Biden leads 49% to Trump’s 46%. However, among white respondents without a degree, Trump leads Biden 61% to 36%, while Biden leads Trump among whites with a college degree 60% to 38%.

The gender gap revealed in this poll is on par with historic averages from the 2012 and 2016 elections in the difference between male and female voters’ support for Democratic candidates. In this poll, Biden does about 10 points better among women than men, leading 57% to 38% among women who are likely voters and 49% to 48% among men who are likely voters.

While Trump trails Biden by double digits nationally, his approval rating has not undergone a precipitous decline, which has hovered between an average of 40% and 45% nationally for most of the last three years. Overall, 44% of likely voters approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president and 56% disapprove. But nearly half of the electorate (47% of likely voters) say they strongly disapprove of the way the president has handled his job.

Because there’s no corresponding job approval rating for Biden, the point of comparison for the candidates is favorability rating. In 2016, both candidates – Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – had net negative approval ratings in polling averages heading into the election. In 2020, the pattern is different: Trump continues to have a net negative favorability rating of -13; 42% find him favorable, 55% unfavorable and 3% have no opinion. Biden, however, is net positive +9; 50% find him favorable, 41% unfavorable and 9% have no opinion. Clinton is still net negative at -17 (35% favorable, 52% unfavorable, 12% no opinion), which indicates that Democrats have a much more popular nominee in 2020.

With Trump’s coronavirus-positive diagnosis on Oct. 2, the campaign became fully focused once again on the president’s handling of COVID-19. Overall, a majority of likely voters polled (57%) are not satisfied with the way the federal government has handled the pandemic, compared to 43%  who said they are satisfied. This stands in stark contrast to state governments that get much higher marks: 59% of Americans said they are satisfied with their state government’s response compared to 41 percent who said they are unsatisfied.

Asked who they trust more to handle COVID-19, 52% of likely voters say Biden compared to 36% of likely voters who said Trump. On the question of whether Trump could have avoided contracting COVID-19 by wearing a mask more often, 71% of likely voters said yes while 29% said no.

“With the total American dead from the virus approaching a quarter-million by Election Day, voters are frustrated by Trump’s response to the virus, both personally and as president. Unfortunately for the president, there’s no miracle cure for his dismal poll numbers on the pandemic,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science.

The poll of likely voters also found:With Supreme Court hearings taking place this week, nominee Amy Coney Barrett has a -1 net negative favorability rating among likely voters – 31% favorable, 32% unfavorable, 25% no opinion and 12% never heard of her.Asked who they think will win the 2020 presidential election, likely voters gave Biden the edge: 45% said Biden will win and 41% said Trump will win.Asked about a hypothetical alternative matchup, Biden leads Pence 54% to 41% with 4% undecided. Harris leads Pence 50% to 43% with 6% undecided.Just 30% of Americans think things are headed in the right direction, while 70% say things are on the wrong track.On Trump’s signature issue, the economy, 47% said Biden is better suited to handle the economy, compared to 42% who said Trump.

The survey was designed and analyzed by the Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from Oct. 5 through Oct. 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3%. Detailed poll results – including topline and full methodology – are available at www.uml.edu/polls.