Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden is winning the lesser-of-two-evils battle against President Trump.
It was a different story when Mr. Trump emerged as the fallback option four years ago for most voters who were not thrilled with either him or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“That was a big thing back in 2016 because she was not liked, and he was not liked, but they just disliked her more,” said Mike Noble of the public opinion and market research analytics firm OH Predictive Insights.
Mr. Biden’s ability to attract working-class voters, according to his backers, is at the heart of the former vice president’s electability argument.
Exit polls in 2016 found that roughly 1 in 5 voters in the states that mattered most — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — said they did not like their options on the presidential ballot.
Mr. Trump ended up being the beneficiary.
He outperformed Mrs. Clinton among disgruntled voters by 37 percentage points in Wisconsin, 25 points in Pennsylvania and 21 points in Michigan and became the first Republican in decades to carry those states.
Those voters contributed to Mr. Trump’s slim margins of victory in their states. He took all three by fewer than 80,000 votes combined.
The same dissatisfied voters will be critical again this fall. Surveys from Monmouth University show that the share of respondents who do not have high opinions of either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden has been hovering around 20% since March.
But the most recent poll showed Mr. Biden besting Mr. Trump among this subset of voters by a 59% to 17% margin.
There is a silver lining in the poll numbers for Mr. Trump. Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the composition of the “dislike both” group has changed.
Surveys reveal a dramatic shift from four years ago among voters who say they favor neither candidate. In 2016, those voters split roughly evenly between Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning voters, 42% to 40%, respectively. This year, an overwhelming 51% of “favor neither” voters lean Democratic and 21% lean Republican.
Another difference between the two election cycles is that the pool of “favor neither” voters has shrunk because more Republicans appear to have picked sides, Mr. Murray said.
“Either they have decided to like Trump or they no longer consider themselves Republican,” he said.
A Morning Consult poll of 27,754 registered voters released this month found that Mr. Biden held a 45% to 42% lead over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Biden held a whopping 46% to 14% lead among voters with unfavorable views of him and Mr. Trump.
A recent OH Predictive Insights poll found a similar trend in Arizona, a state that Democrats have carried once — Bill Clinton in 1996 — since 1972.
The survey found Mr. Biden with a 50% to 43% edge over Mr. Trump among likely voters and that he has a massive lead among voters who think their choices stink.
“The gap in their support is striking,” Mr. Noble said in his analysis, which noted that the sample size was small. “More than six in 10 (63%) of these voters say they would vote for Joe Biden, whereas only 6 percent say they would vote for Donald Trump.”
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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