A poll released by Quinnipiac University this week allows us to do so easily. Quinnipiac asked voters a number of questions about the personal qualities possessed by both Trump and Biden — nearly the same questions as it asked in mid-September in 2016 about Trump and Clinton. The differences between the responses are stark.
We can start at the top. In September 2016, Quinnipiac had Clinton leading Trump by 5 points, half of the lead Biden now enjoys. Remarkably — and importantly — Trump’s support was essentially flat between the two polls. In other words, he has essentially added no national support over the past four years.
Trump has seen growth in the percentage of people who view him favorably (up six points), but he still trails his Democratic opponent by about the same margin on that metric.
On a slew of personal characteristics, the shifts are larger.
Honesty. Four years ago, Trump had an eight-point advantage on perceived honesty. Since then, the percentage of people describing him as honest has fallen, and the density of people saying his opponent is honest is up 17 points (Clinton’s 32 percent to Biden’s 49 percent).
Leadership. The percentage of people saying Trump has good leadership skills has fallen by 11 points. While he was about tied with Clinton, he now trails Biden.
Intelligence. A similar move: He trailed Clinton, but perceptions of his intelligence have sunk since 2016. He trails Biden by 13 points.
Levelheaded. This was Clinton’s biggest advantage. Trump’s position on this metric has improved, but he still trails Biden by a wide margin.
Cares about average Americans. Less than half the country thinks this is true of Trump, as it did four years ago. Biden gets better marks than did Clinton.
Put simply, Biden holds an advantage over Trump on every metric, while Clinton at times only matched or even trailed her opponent. This is partly because of Biden but also, clearly, in part because Trump is less likely to get the benefit of the doubt on how he might be as president.
These shifts alone don’t necessarily explain Biden’s 10-point advantage in Quinnipiac’s poll. But it does bolster the idea that Clinton’s unpopularity was an impediment Biden won’t face.