By Jason Lange and James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden's chances of re-election are being jeopardized by voters' concerns over his age, the economy and crime, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, creating an opportunity for Republican challenger Donald Trump to return to the White House.
The opinion poll found Democrat Biden, 80, tied in a hypothetical November 2024 election against Trump, 77, the former president who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination, with both receiving 39% of the vote and one in five voters undecided.
Democrats held a strong advantage among voters most concerned about protecting abortion rights, while Republicans had an edge among those worried about crime, the poll found.
Trump remains politically viable despite a battery of federal and state criminal charges revolving around his attempts to overturn Biden's 2020 election win and his mishandling of classified documents since leaving office. He is expected to spend much of next year in courtrooms standing trial while also campaigning.
But in a worrisome result for Biden, Trump held a small advantage in the seven states where the 2020 presidential election was closest: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada and Michigan. In those states, Trump led with 41% to Biden's 35%, and 24% undecided.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online nationwide from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14, gathering responses from 4,413 U.S. adults. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 2 percentage points.
More than a year remains before voters will start to cast ballots, plenty of time to change their minds.
Large numbers of voters appear to be up for grabs, the poll found.
Biden faces the risk of losing independent voters, whom he won decisively in 2020. If the election were held now, Trump had 32% support among independents to Biden's 30%, effectively a tie with the a 38% plurality still undecided, the poll found.
Biden held an early advantage among voters who said they were completely certain they would vote next year - they favored the Democrat 49%-38% with just 13% undecided. Since his 2020 loss, Trump has continued to falsely claim that his defeat was the result of fraud, which could serve to undercut some of his supporters' faith in the electoral process.
ABORTION RIGHTS ADVANTAGE
Biden had the upper hand on an issue of protecting abortion rights, which the poll showed was animating Democrats and resonating outside Biden's party as well. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.
Eighty-eight percent of Democrats rated abortion rights as important for how they will vote and one in six said it was the most important issue or the only one they really cared about.
Moreover, one in three Republicans thought the Democratic Party had the best approach on the issue, while independents favored Democrats over Republicans on abortion rights by more than two-to-one.
Voters expressed concern over Biden’s age and his fitness for office. Seventy-seven percent of respondents, including 65% of Democrats, said Biden is too old to be president, while just 39% said Biden was mentally sharp enough for the presidency.
By comparison, 56% of poll respondents said Trump is too old for the office, while 54% said he was mentally sharp enough to handle the challenges of the presidency.
Both men are viewed favorably by about 40% of the electorate, but 43% of Americans find Trump "very unfavorable" as compared to 38% for Biden.
Crime was on the minds of voters across both parties. Eighty-eight percent of respondents in the poll, including strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents, said crime would be an important issue for determining their vote.
Republicans could benefit: Independents favored Republicans over Democrats on the issue by 34% to 22%, according to the poll.
Finally, voters continue to be worried about the state of the economy despite the White House’s insistence that it remains in solid shape, with 73% of respondents saying their economic situation was about the same or worse than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked if they expected their economic situation to be better a year from now, only 35% answered in the affirmative.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and James Oliphant; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)