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NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll: Biden Leads Trump But Shows Some Vulnerability

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There's only about six weeks until Election Day. Some voters are already casting ballots. And former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead President Trump nationally by a substantial margin - at least that's according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. There are some important nuances in these numbers, and we're going to get to them with NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Welcome back.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.

CORNISH: I want to start with the headline. What are the figures that support that?

MONTANARO: Well, to start with - this is the first time this election cycle we asked about likely voters, and of those most likely to vote, Biden leads 52 to 43. That's about the same as we have it with the wider universe of registered voters, and it's also about where the race has been for months in our poll and others. You know, it's really remarkable how steady it's been, actually. Even when you add in libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen and the Green Party's Howie Hawkins, Biden's still ahead by seven, and he's at 49%. What really jumped out to me, though, in this poll is how Biden is doing with white voters, specifically whites with a college degree. I mean, this is remarkable. According to 2016 exit polls, Trump won this group 48-45. In our poll, Biden leads with them 66 to 31.

CORNISH: What are Biden's vulnerabilities?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, the biggest problem for him is that he's not doing as well as Hillary Clinton did with nonwhite voters. And, mainly, our pollsters are saying, that's coming from Latinos. If there's a warning sign for him, it is that. And Latinos play an important role in states like Florida, which are key to, you know, the Electoral College and could determine the election because, as we all know, the national popular vote doesn't decide who wins.

CORNISH: What did the poll tell you about what's foremost on voters' minds?

MONTANARO: Well, this really does tell you everything about why we're so divided in this country. I mean, depending on what party people are in, they care about very different things. For Democrats, the top issue is now climate change, and that's a shift from just before the 2018 election, when health care was top of mind for Democrats. Second is coronavirus, then health care more generally, the economy and race relations. But for Republicans, very different - the top issue for them continues to be the economy and jobs, head and shoulders above anything else, followed by abortion, crime and guns - all culture issues - with coronavirus behind that. So maybe that helps make some sense for why it seems like both parties aren't just from different planets but different universes.

CORNISH: Can I ask a little more about coronavirus? What do voters think about the - I don't know - the public health messages that they're getting on COVID-19?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, first of all, the thing that jumped out to me is that those saying that they're going to get vaccinated when one comes available has dropped from 60% last month to just 49% now, and that's driven by a decline with independents and Republicans. Public health experts are still the most trusted sources of information. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say they trust them, but that's down 15 points since March. Almost all of that is driven by Republicans, which indicates Trump's campaign against some public health officials has stuck with his base. But it's not like Trump is trusted on this, you know? I mean, only a third of people said that they trust the information they're getting from their president on coronavirus.

CORNISH: Anything else jump out at you?

MONTANARO: I mean, the biggest thing here that jumped out that was aside from all the rest is that, you know, we've been tracking views of Black Lives Matter and protests across the country, and we've seen a decline in support. After George Floyd's death, 62% in our poll in June supported the protests, said they were mostly legitimate as opposed to mostly people acting unlawfully. Now Americans are split 48 to 45. And when it comes to Black Lives Matter, still a majority of people have a favorable view, but unfavorable views have gone up in the last month from 34% to 40% - big racial and generational splits, and most of the movement, again, comes from downward shifts with Republicans.

CORNISH: Domenico, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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