WASHINGTON - As the presidential race moves into its final seven weeks, with former Vice President Joe Biden holding a lead that remains steady but not conclusive, he and President Donald Trump face contrasting challenges, new data from a University of Southern California Dornsife poll show.
Biden has largely succeeded in uniting his fellow Democrats. But as he tries to build a broad coalition that would include a significant number of independents and moderate Republicans - a step that could lock down key states - he faces resistance on ideology. Independents and voters who lean Republican, groups that make up a large share of the remaining swing voters, judge Biden to be considerably more liberal than themselves, the poll finds.
Trump faces a different challenge: Not only is he behind, but a slice of his potential supporters are iffy about voting, the poll finds. At the same time, the main issue he has pushed in recent weeks - law and order - appears to have salience mostly with people who already strongly support him.
Registered voters who solidly back Trump and those who solidly back Biden report a similar likelihood of voting, about 95% on average. The president's problem comes with those who say they only lean toward voting for him. They average a 75% likelihood, the poll finds, compared with 92% for those who lean to Biden.
Those weak Trump supporters are also slightly more doubtful that their ballots will be counted - a worry that the poll indicates may be discouraging their likelihood of voting. Trump's warnings about rigged elections and vote fraud, which have been replete with false statements, may have heightened those concerns, unintentionally deterring some of his supporters.
Biden leads Trump nationwide by 9 points, 51% to 42%, the USC Dornsife poll finds. Biden's margin has shrunk slightly since last week, a change that could reflect a tightening of the race but is small enough that it may simply be random fluctuation in the poll's daily tracking.
As he seeks to close the gap, Trump faces a daunting reality: A large share of the electorate has tuned him out. Nearly 6 in 10 voters have an unfavorable view of him, and about half say their view is "extremely unfavorable."
Among undecided voters - a small share of the electorate - 70% view Trump unfavorably, as do about three-quarters of those who say they voted for a third-party candidate in 2016. About 15% of people who say they voted for Trump in 2016 view him unfavorably today.
Views of Biden are closely divided, 50% favorable and 47% unfavorable, the poll found. In contrast to Trump, only about a third of voters say their view of Biden is "extremely unfavorable." Independents have a net negative view of both candidates.
Among some voter groups, unusually large shares say their view of Trump is extremely unfavorable: 79% of Black voters, for example, 64% of city dwellers, 56% of Latinas, and 51% of millennials and younger voters.