By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden has quietly expanded his lead over President Donald Trump among registered voters, even as the rapidly spreading coronavirus has all but sidelined the former vice president’s campaign, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday of more than 1,100 American adults found that 46% of registered voters said they would support Biden if he were running against Trump in the Nov. 3 election, while 40% said they would vote for Trump.
That advantage of 6 percentage points was up from a 1-point lead for Biden recorded in a similar poll that ran from March 6 to 9.
The result suggested that Biden had not been hurt politically from his lack of visibility while the Republican president is at the center of a government response to a pandemic that has infected more than 184,000 people in the United States and killed more than 3,700 people.
Biden, who does not currently hold office, has been struggling to stay in the public eye as the coronavirus forced millions of Americans inside their homes. While Trump has held daily televised briefings about the virus, Biden has had to shut down fundraisers and other campaign events, and election officials in many states have postponed their nominating contests.
Still, the poll found that the number of people who approve of Trump in general, and also those who like the way he has handled the U.S. coronavirus response, had changed very little over the past few weeks. About 44% said they approved of Trump’s overall performance and 48% said they liked the way he had responded to the coronavirus outbreak.
That compared with a 70% approval rating among respondents for their state governors’ handling of the pandemic.
Trump initially underplayed the severity of the coronavirus,
sparred with governors over their requests for medical supplies and floated the idea of reopening the economy against the advice of public health officials. But he shifted course to back extending the shutdown measures to slow the spread of the virus.
The poll showed that the coronavirus had rattled the entire country, with 89% saying they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned by the respiratory disease.
Twenty-six percent of adults in the United States said they had lost their jobs or been furloughed as stores closed and employers were forced to cut back on staffing because of guidance from health officials for people to stay at home. That was up 3 percentage points from a similar poll that ran last week.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,114 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 3 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney)