Joe Biden has slightly expanded his projected lead against President Donald Trump as voters decide whether they believe a sexual assault allegation leveled at the former vice president, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.
Half of the registered voters polled said they backed Biden, while 41% supported Trump. Last month, the poll had Biden leading 48%-44%.
Biden’s holds a slightly smaller lead, 47%-40%, when Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) is on the ballot as an independent candidate. The 5% of voters who said they’d back Amash are a smaller group than the 11% who said they’d back former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2016.
“Overall, there is not as much of an appetite for a third option as there was four years ago. It’s too early to tell whether Amash will have an impact but if this election ends up being as close as 2016, even a small showing can have a crucial impact,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Both major-party candidates have negative favorability ratings, though Trump’s is further underwater.
Trump earned a favorability rating of 40%-53%. Biden received slightly better 41%-44% favorability, though his numbers, like Trump’s, have gotten slightly worse over the past two months.
“Biden’s lead continues to build even as overall opinion of him remains soft. It’s possible that recent headlines about a sexual assault claim may have had an impact on his favorability rating, but most voters still see this election mainly as a referendum on Trump,” Murray said.
Most voters, 86%, said they’ve heard about a sexual assault allegation leveled against Biden by Tara Reade, who worked in Biden’s Senate office in the early 1990s.
A plurality, 37%, said Reade’s allegations were probably true, while 32% said they probably were not, and 31% said they had no opinion.
Unsurprisingly, those results are split along party lines, though only 50% of Republicans said the allegation was probably true.
Almost twice as many independents, 44%, said the allegation was likely true than not, 22%.
“We don’t know what impact this allegation will have in the long run. For some voters who believe the charge, it is still not enough to override their desire to oust Trump. The outlook is murkier for those who don’t have an opinion on it,” Murray said. “This group includes a number of Democratic-leaning independents who could potentially be swayed if this story grows in importance.”