NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Democrat Joe Biden opened his widest lead in a month in the United States presidential race after President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, and a majority of Americans think Trump could have avoided infection if he had taken the virus more seriously, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday (Oct 4).
The Oct 2-3 national opinion poll gave little indication of an outpouring of support for the President beyond Mr Trump’s core group of followers, some of whom have gathered outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, where he has been hospitalised.
Mr Trump has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the pandemic, painting it as something that would disappear on its own, and chiding Biden as recently as last week for wearing a protective mask, even as the coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, infected millions of people and forced businesses and schools to close.
Among those adults who are expected to cast ballots in the Nov 3 election, the poll found that 51 per cent were backing Mr Biden, while 41 per cent said they were voting for Mr Trump. Another 4 per cent were choosing a third-party candidate and another 4 per cent said they were undecided.
Mr Biden’s 10-point edge over Mr Trump is one to two points higher than leads Mr Biden posted over the past several weeks, though the increase is still within the poll’s precision limits of plus or minus five percentage points.
With about a month to go before the election, Mr Biden has maintained an early advantage in securing the national popular vote. But to win the presidency, a candidate must prevail in enough states to win the Electoral College, and state polls show that Mr Trump is nearly as popular as Mr Biden in battleground states.
Mr Trump, 74, was transferred to Walter Reed on Friday, hours after tweeting that he was diagnosed with Covid-19. The announcement set off a dizzying split-screen experience for many: As media alerts lit up cellphones and television screens about Mr Trump feeling feverish and needing oxygen, several other Republican leaders who had been in close proximity with the President announced that they, too, had tested positive.
Most Americans continue to be deeply worried about the virus, and the poll found that 65 per cent, including nine in 10 registered Democrats and five in 10 registered Republicans, agreed that “if President Trump had taken coronavirus more seriously, he probably would not have been infected”.
Only 34 per cent said they thought that Mr Trump has been telling them the truth about the coronavirus, while 55 per cent said that he was not and 11 per cent were unsure.
Of those polled, 57 per cent of Americans said they disapproved of Mr Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic overall, up about three points from a poll that ran late last week.
Americans also appear to be largely supportive of curtailing the 2020 presidential race to ensure everyone’s safety.
Sixty-seven per cent of Americans want to stop in-person campaign rallies and 59 per cent think the presidential debates should be postponed until Mr Trump recovers from the coronavirus.
It is unclear at this point how Mr Trump’s diagnosis will impact the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for Oct 15. The first vice-presidential debate between Democrat Kamala Harris and Republican Mike Pence is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,005 US adults, including 596 likely voters.
Only about 61 per cent of voting-age Americans actually voted in the 2016 election.