By Jason Lange and James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of Americans agree with President Joe Biden on issues including abortion rights, capping insulin prices and hiking taxes on billionaires, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found, but his campaign faces a tough task in getting angry voters to care.
The 81-year-old Democrat’s prospects for re-election have been dragged down by voters’ worries about the state of the economy, concerns about Biden's age and a general sense that the country is moving in the wrong direction.
Benefiting from that unease has been Biden's likely Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, 77, who has a slight lead over Biden nationally in a head-to-head matchup ahead of the Nov. 5, 2024, election.
Biden’s biggest challenge may be overcoming what the poll, concluded on Monday, showed to be the deep mistrust many voters appear to feel toward their political opponents or even politics in general.
Reuters/Ipsos presented respondents with a line from a recent Trump speech that there are "communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country - that lie and steal and cheat on elections" -- without first telling them who said it.
Half of respondents said they agreed with that sentiment, including 71% of Republicans and 37% of Democrats.
The poll then asked respondents if they knew that the line was said by Trump. Among respondents who were aware, 57% agreed, including 84% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats.
Rage and grievance are a key driver of Trump’s campaign. A lasting challenge for Biden will be to penetrate this cloud of anger by harnessing the relative popularity of his agenda.
Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist who worked for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, said the Biden campaign needs to hope that the mood of the electorate shifts to the point where more voters are open to his message.
"There is no way you can reach people when they are frustrated. You have to wait for them to dial it down," Ceraso said. "Then you hope you can find the thing that moves the voter back into your column."
There remain plenty of persuadable voters: While the margin between Trump and Biden is small, a quarter of respondents in the poll picked neither candidate, and 15% said they hadn't made up their mind or might not vote.
THE BIDEN AGENDA
About half of respondents - including three-quarters of Democrats and a third of Republicans - support passing a law to legalize abortion nationwide, a key plank in Biden's re-election pitch. Independents favored it by a two-to-one margin.
Bipartisan majorities said they supported capping the price of insulin for all Americans as well as imposing a minimum tax on billionaires - also Biden proposals.
Legislation passed by Congress and signed by Biden capped out-of-pocket costs on insulin to $35 for recipients of the Medicare federal health plan for the elderly, but Biden wants to extend that cap to apply to all Americans.
A majority of respondents, 55%, backed Biden's call to ban assault rifles. A third of Republicans and about half of independents said the U.S. should ban assault rifles.
Biden’s biggest worry continues to be voters’ fears about the economy despite a series of positive indicators that the White House continues to highlight.
Nine out of 10 poll respondents said the economy would be important in determining how they would vote, compared with about two-thirds who cited abortion access or climate change. Some 45% of respondents said Trump had a better approach on the economy, with 33% picking Biden and the rest unsure.
Trump’s campaign also has an opportunity to connect with undecided voters on his "America First" agenda, which has harnessed dissatisfaction over how the U.S. economy has faired in global trade and decades of military interventions. Some 37% of respondents favored Trump's proposed 10% tariff on all imports - significantly higher than the 24% who said they oppose the idea. An even larger share of respondents, 39%, weren't sure where they stood on the issue.
While U.S. public support skews in favor of financial and military aide for Ukraine in its war against Russia, Republicans and independents lean toward Trump's skepticism over arming Ukraine.
The new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 38% of independents were against Ukraine aid, with 27% in favor and 35% unsure.
A two-thirds majority, including similar shares of Republicans and Democrats, opposed Trump's proposal to impose the death penalty on drug dealers.
There was also little support for Trump's musings about leaving the NATO alliance, with just 17% of respondents supporting the idea. Just 29% supported a Trump proposal to cease granting U.S. citizenship to all people born in the U.S. regardless of the legal status of their parents.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, surveying 4,411 adults nationwide between Dec. 5 and Dec. 11. It had a credibility interval, a margin of precision, of about 2 percentage points.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and James Oliphant; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)