Majority Think Trump and Biden Mentally Unfit

The two oldest major party nominees in American history are not inspiring great confidence.

Some bad if unsurprising news for both candidates from the latest polls.

CNBC (“Most voters don’t see Trump and Biden as mentally fit to be president, new poll shows“):

Most voters in six 2020 swing states do not consider either President Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden mentally fit to be president, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll.

The findings in the pivotal states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were released Thursday amid a sustained push by the Trump campaign to portray Biden as incapable of handling the demands of office. Most respondents in those states, which will play a huge role in determining the presidential election winner, do not have confidence in Trump’s ability to take on the job, either.

A 51% majority said Trump is mentally unfit to be president, while 49% answered that he is fit to hold the job. A similar share, by a 52% to 48% margin, responded that Biden is mentally unfit to be president.

Voters had more confidence in the presidential hopefuls’ physical fitness to hold the White House. A 52% majority said the 74-year-old Trump is physically fit to be president, and 54% said the same about Biden, who is 77. 

The poll, taken Friday through Sunday, surveyed 4,143 likely voters across the six states and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. The survey found Biden leading Trump by at least a small margin in all those key states and that most voters disapprove of Trump’s efforts to keep Americans safe.

In a CNBC/Change Research national poll, 55% said Trump was mentally unfit, while 45% said he was fit. Biden was deemed unfit by 52% and fit by 48%. The survey was conducted with 1,902 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.25 percentage points.

Again, this is hardly surprising. They’re old men and both sides have worked to portray the other candidate as mentally incompetent. Given that both men have been in the national spotlight for decades and are clearly diminished in terms of their verbal skills, it’s an easy sell.

Do I have major concerns about Biden’s ability to finish out his term if elected? Yes. Do I have major concerns about his mental fitness? Not really. He’s not a verbally sharp as he once was—and he’s always been gaffe-prone—but he still strikes me as perfectly competent. And he did just go through a grueling primary fight against a (mostly) younger field and emerged victorious.

Beyond that—and this is crucial—I have a high degree of confidence that he’ll surround himself with a competent team and trust that they will faithfully carry out their duties under the 25th Amendment. If his mental acuity falls to the level where he can’t do his job, he’ll move aside.

I lack such confidence in Trump and his team, buttressed by their performance in the first term.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Health, Joe Biden, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    Most voters in six 2020 swing states…

    I think the best possible argument for eliminating the Electoral College is the promise we would never have to hear the term “swing state” again. I think all Americans could get behind that.

    A 51% majority said Trump is mentally unfit to be president, while 49% answered that he is fit to hold the job. A similar share, by a 52% to 48% margin, responded that Biden is mentally unfit to be president.

    I feel like this is the type of survey where seeing the crosstabs would be critical to understanding the context. In particular, I’d love to see these results broken out by party alignment to understand to which degree which that colors folk’s opinions on each of the candidates (spoiler alert, I suspect it does a LOT).

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  2. Bill says:

    “He’s a man of integrity, incapable of hiding what he really thinks, and one of those rare people you know you could turn to for help in a personal crisis. Still, I think he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” – Robert Gates on Joe Biden

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  3. An Interested Party says:

    I have a high degree of confidence that he’ll surround himself with a competent team…

    This is key…in addition to Biden being a better choice than Trump, Biden’s team will be composed of skilled professionals rather than the sleazy grifters who populate the current administration…

    Still, I think he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.

    And isn’t it sad that even with that, he’s still a better choice than Trump…

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  4. Kathy says:

    While there’s no doubt mental agility declines with age, it can be made up by experience and wisdom.

    Experience is what we call our mistakes, as Wilde noted. This is true, because we learn more from our mistakes. That relates to wisdom.

    Biden has made mistakes and seems to have learned from them. Trump has made mistakes, naturally, but has never admired to doing so. Therefore he has learned nothing from them, rendering his experience worthless and his wisdom nonexistent.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    Of course this is what such a survey would show. Trump has the POTUS megaphone and he’s used it daily to both claim Biden’s mental unfitness and demonstrate his own.

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  6. Blue Galangal says:

    Oh, come on.

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  7. Michael P says:

    I asked this question last cycle, but I’ll ask it again. Out of a population of 331,000,000 people, these are the two best candidates we could come up with?

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve sure seen a whole lot more talk about Biden’s gaffe’s than I’ve seen gaffes. It’s part of the supposedly liberal MSM’s narrative, so facts will have little sway.

    5
  9. CSK says:

    Look, any man who would ask, as Trump apparently did according to Richard Cohen of the WaPo, if it was wrong to be more sexually attracted to your own daughter than to your wife is no one who should be in the White House, nor anywhere but a nuthouse.

    I believe Ivanka knows exactly what effect she has on her father and exploits it. What a sick, sick crew these people are.

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  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    77% of Americans believe in angels.
    18% believe the sun goes around the earth.
    Flat-earthers, Anti-vaxxers and Climate change deniers are a thing.
    46% voted for Trump.

    It’s the American people who are mentally unfit

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  11. Gustopher says:

    I wish we had data on this going back for the past 40 years so we could see the effect of age on this, or whether people always thought Biden and Trump were mentally unfit.

    Not that it would be useful information, I just like the idea of polling the public on the perceived mental competence of every notable figure who might ever run for the job. Just constant polling on “Is Michael J Fox competent to be President? Ok, how about Michael Jordan? Michael B. Jordan? Jim Jordan?”

    Anything where half the people think Trump is mentally competent seems very suspect.

  12. Gustopher says:

    I have a high degree of confidence that he’ll surround himself with a competent team and trust that they will faithfully carry out their duties under the 25th Amendment.

    I don’t. People are great at covering for the longest time, and other people see what they want to see, and the cabinet will be instinctively protecting him.

    The 25th Amendment is useless for mental competence.

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  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael P:

    Michael, you seem be suffering from the optimistic delusion that the presidency is the pinnacle of the meritocracy. Alas, no.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    Back in the late 1980s, I don’t recall anyone questioning Biden’s mental competence. His ethics, yes, because of the plagiarism from Neil Kinnock.

    As for Trump, he was mostly famous in the northeast then, mostly for being a social-climbing buffoon and vulgarian. No one really thought about him much otherwise; he was contemptuously dismissed as a pathetic joke and the butt of Spy magazine pranks. But I don’t recall anyone positing that he was impaired as they are now.

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  15. a country lawyer says:

    I expect a not unsubstantial part of the public’s opinion concerning Biden’s mental health is due to the efforts of the right and their cohorts in the right wing media to portray him as mentally deficient.
    Trump has earned his reputation on his own.

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Woodrow Wilson. Ronald Reagan.

    ETA: The real point here is that we no longer have the parties to act in the role of gatekeepers for who runs. Haven’t for a long time. We’ll have to rely on the voters to pay attention, spend more than 5 nanoseconds choosing who to picks, study the issues, and start actively rejecting people for candidacy. WASF. 🙁

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  17. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael P:
    Understand it as rhetorical. However we are drawing not from the entire population, we are drawing from the infinitesimal percentage of it willing to subject themselves and their families to the circus the process has become.

  18. Joe says:

    Woodrow Wilson

    Twenty-fifth Amendment, Just nutha ignint cracker was ratified in 1967.

  19. wr says:

    The difference between these two views is that Biden’s is primarily based on Trump’s bashing of him, and Trump’s on the public’s seeing him in office for almost four years.

    Of the two, one of those can be substantially improved by a strong debate performance. What can Trump do to make himself look better?

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  20. Han says:

    I’d just like to point out that the headline is incorrect, and that the question asked was not if they were both unfit, but was instead two questions as to their fitness individually. There is likely little overlap. It may seem nitpicky, but it’s similar to the assertion back in the day that the majority of Americans disapproved of the ACA, and we should therefore get rid of it, when in reality some disapproved because they didn’t like it and thought it went too far, while some disapproved because it didn’t go far enough. We do not have a majority of Americans who dislike both candidates.

    I’d also like to suggest that this is not a “both sides” thing, in that Trump’s reputation is coming from people noticing his inarticulateness and having been given cognative tests. Biden’s is coming from a Republican Party with a reputation for projection and an “I’m rubber and you’re glue” mentality, as well as a rose twitter campaign to get Biden out and Sanders in as nominee.

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  21. flat earth luddite says:

    @wr:

    What can Trump do to make himself look better?

    Not show up? Failing that, keeping his mouth shut? If I were his handler, I’d be digging out a tube of super-glue and a roll of gaffer’s tape before ANY debate. Or locking him in a closet before hand.

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  22. Kathy says:

    @wr:

    What can Trump do to make himself look better?

    Trade in the orange skin for an orange jumpsuit. He’d look absolutely fabulous like that.

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  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Joe: Still in all, not a single one of the good people he had in his government stepped up and said “he can’t serve anymore, we have to figure out what to do the Veep will need to take charge publicly.” Not a one. And that’s the condition Dr. Joyner is relying on. Didn’t happen then, didn’t happen in ~1986, won’t happen in ~2022 or 3 or 4.

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