So why isn’t Trump leading in the polls? Or at least even in the polls? In part because so many voters say they are turned off by his personality, his manner, his style, his public performance in office. In the same poll in which 56 percent said they are better off than four years ago, Gallup also asked whether voters “agree or disagree that [Trump or Biden] has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.” Forty-nine percent said Biden has those qualities, while 44 percent said Trump has them. Other polls, while finding that voters see Trump as a strong leader, have highlighted voter unhappiness with his personality.

In the New Yorker, Trende was asked about Trump’s handling of coronavirus — polls show the public strongly disapproves of it. But the polls in New York State also show the public strongly approves of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the virus, which has been an indisputable disaster. So how to make sense of that? “We can debate policy choices and what should be done because people get at the fundamental level that this is ‘act of God’ territory, using that term broadly,” Trende said. “People want to hear presidents giving moving speeches, even if what they do isn’t that effective. And [Trump] just couldn’t do it.” Trende noted that, of the major things Biden is promising to do to defeat coronavirus, Trump is already doing them. But for many voters, Biden says it in a more pleasing, palatable way than Trump. “That’s what people want,” Trende said. “To just say you’re going to do something to make it better and look like you care. And Trump’s just incapable of that.”