Most Democrats are shrugging off questions about Joe Biden’s touchiness as the former vice president nears a decision on 2020, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Half of Democrats polled said the allegations from women that Biden made them uncomfortable by invading their personal space will make no difference in their vote. Twenty-nine percent said the allegations would make them less likely to vote against Biden. The responses were nearly identical among Democratic men and women.
And very few voters see the allegations as truly disqualifying. Only 14 percent say the stories make them “much less likely” to vote for Biden.
The results indicate that the spate of negative news stories has taken a modest toll on Biden’s image but hasn’t substantially disrupted his front-runner status. And the voters who say they are most bothered by the allegations are the ones least likely to support Biden, namely younger Democrats who prefer candidates other than the 76-year-old former vice president.
Biden, who’s expected to announce his presidential intentions soon, has been dogged by the accounts of several women who say he made them uncomfortable with physical contact. He apologized publicly for causing any discomfort but said he doesn’t regret his actions because his intentions were never bad.
Few voters see the allegations against Biden as sexual in nature. Only 13 percent of all voters, and 8 percent of Democrats, said Biden committed sexual harassment or assault. Thirty-six percent of voters and Democrats said Biden behaved inappropriately but didn’t commit sexual harassment. Nearly a quarter of voters, 23 percent, said Biden hasn’t behaved inappropriately, including 32 percent of Democrats.
That’s also true among Democratic women, who will make up roughly six out of 10 primary voters and caucus-goers next year.
The allegations against Biden "have done little to shake his support among Democratic women,” concluded Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president.
But just because most Democrats are still in Biden’s corner doesn’t mean the story isn’t breaking through, or it isn’t having some effect on Biden’s standing. More than three-in-four voters, 77 percent, say they have seen, read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the allegations, including 79 percent of Democratic voters.
Morning Consult’s weekly tracking of the Democratic primary field — a separate project from the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — showed no dent in Biden’s standing. But Biden’s favorable rating has ticked down more significantly, with the percentage of Democratic voters who view him very favorably dropping 5 points over the past week.
But, by and large, the voters who said they’re most concerned about the Biden story in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll are less relevant to Biden’s expected pursuit of the Democratic nomination. While 34 percent of voters said the Biden stories make them less likely to vote for him in 2020, it includes 40 percent of GOP voters.
The poll does underscore some of the generational divides among voters when it comes to Biden and his political style. Despite their overall Democratic lean, more voters under age 30, 47 percent, said the Biden allegations make them less likely to vote for him than seniors 65 and older (28 percent) or Baby Boomers aged 54-72 (31 percent).
Those same age divisions are on display in the Democratic primary. In Morning Consult’s Democratic polling this week, Biden was the first choice of 22 percent of voters younger than 30, 25 percent of voters aged 30-44, 34 percent of those 45-54, 37 percent of those 55-64 and 42 percent of seniors 65 and older.
But while Biden has taken a few dings over the touching controversy, he could be helped by comparisons with President Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. Asked about their vote in the 2020 election, just 20 percent of respondents to the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll say they will think “a lot” about how Biden treats women — nearly half the 38 percent who say they will think “a lot” about how Trump treats women.
Three-in-five Democratic voters said they will think a lot about how Trump treats women, but 23 percent say they will think a lot about how Biden treats women.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll also examined other potential liabilities for Biden if he seeks the Democratic nomination. Among Democrats, 30 percent agreed that Biden, who will be 78 on Inauguration Day 2021, is “too old to run for president,” but 58 percent disagreed.
While Biden has taken swipes at some in the party’s left wing, only 18 percent of Democrats agree that Biden “is not liberal enough,” while 56 percent disagreed.
Biden’s greatest asset may be his perceived electability: Majorities of Democrats (53 percent), Democratic men (52 percent), Democratic women (55 percent) and African-American voters (53 percent) agree with the statement, “Biden is the Democrat with the best chance to defeat President Trump.” Only 29 percent of Democratic voters disagree with that statement.
Overall, Trump’s poll numbers continue to lag in perilous territory for an incumbent. Just four-in-10 voters, 40 percent, approve of the job Trump is doing as president, down 2 points since last week. Fifty-six percent disapprove.
Only 36 percent of voters say they will definitely or probably vote to reelect Trump next year, while 55 percent said they would probably or definitely vote for someone else.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted April 5-7, surveying 1,992 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine