Voters Increasingly Place Biden Closer to the Ideological Extreme

But the presumptive Democratic nominee is still perceived as more moderate than President Trump
Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) share a moment during the Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sullivan Arena at St. Anselm College on Feb. 7, 2020 in Manchester, N.H.. New polling shows voters are more likely to consider Biden as closer to the left of the ideological spectrum than they did in March. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
July 10, 2020 at 3:47 pm UTC

Former Vice President Joe Biden has spent the past several months working to make inroads with progressives in the Democratic electorate, while also fending off an increasing number of attacks from Republicans who say he is a tool of the "radical left." That contention appears to be registering with the American electorate, new polling shows, with voters now viewing the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as more liberal than they did earlier this year.

In a poll conducted July 7-9, Morning Consult asked 1,993 voters to place Biden and President Donald Trump on an ideological scale of one to seven, with one meaning “very liberal,” four meaning “moderate” and seven meaning “very conservative.” Drawing on an average of responses, voters positioned Biden at 2.8 -- nearly half a point to the left of where they pegged him (3.2) in a survey conducted just ahead of Super Tuesday in March.

Both polls have a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

The perception that Biden has shifted left was observed across partisan identity. Democrats rated Biden’s ideology at a 3.3 compared with 3.7 months ago, similar to the movement measured among independents, who now say Biden is a 3.1 instead of a 3.4. Republicans, who were already more predisposed to view Biden as very liberal, also increasingly see him that way, from a 2.4 to a 2.1 between the two polls.

Candidates perceived as moderate tend to fare better in general elections, and it’s an advantage that the president enjoyed over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, four years ago. But while voters are increasingly likely to say Biden is liberal, the findings also suggest that members of the Trump campaign, which is trying to brand the Delaware Democrat as a Trojan horse for socialist policies, still have their work cut out for them in making him look comparatively extreme.

With a 5.7 rating, voters are also slightly less likely to view Trump as moderate than they were earlier this year, while also viewing him as farther from the center than his presumptive challenger. Additionally, the surveys asked voters to rate the ideology of their “ideal presidential candidate,” a metric that inched leftward from 4.3 to 4.2 between the two polls. That puts Biden slightly closer than Trump to the general electorate’s sweet spot.

Biden has consistently led Trump in Morning Consult’s tracking of the presidential race, with that advantage growing over the past month or so amid mounting COVID-19 cases and social unrest sparked by the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The latest weekly poll, conducted June 29 through July 5 among 33,549 registered voters, found Biden leading Trump by 9 points, 48 percent to 39 percent. That ties a record advantage for Biden in weekly polls conducted this year, each of which have a 1-point margin of error.

A headshot photograph of Cameron Easley
Cameron Easley
Lead U.S. Politics Analyst

Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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