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How Joe Biden has been viewed by the public over the years - CBS polling analysis

Joe Biden enters crowded 2020 Democratic race

Joe Biden enters the 2020 presidential contest at the top of many early polls in the race for the Democratic nomination. The former vice president is far better known to voters than most of the contenders in the crowded Democratic field. He receives the highest favorable ratings among those in his own party, a recent Monmouth University poll shows. Currently, only Bernie Sanders comes close, since many voters have not yet formed an opinion of many of the other candidates.

As Biden makes his third bid for the presidency, CBS News delved into its polling archives to see how the public has viewed him over the years.

Biden didn't get much traction with his 2008 presidential bid, dropping out after the Iowa caucuses. But Democratic nominee Barack Obama chose him as his vice presidential running mate months later. That fall, most voters nationwide viewed Biden as both prepared for the job of vice president and qualified to serve as president if Obama couldn't finish his term.

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But it wasn't just Democrats who viewed Biden this way. Majorities of Republicans and independents also saw him as prepared and qualified.

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The CBS News poll has asked about Biden's job as vice president only a handful of times, although his job performance ratings were consistently net positive.

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As the Obama presidency was nearing its end, Biden considered another run for the presidency but ultimately concluded that it was too soon after his son Beau's tragic death. In the spring of 2015, shortly after both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders officially entered the race, more than half of Democrats (53 percent) said they would consider voting for Biden as the Democratic nominee, while about a third (35 percent) said they wouldn't.  

There was far more support for Clinton, with 85 percent saying they would consider voting for her. (At the time, six in 10 Democrats didn't know enough about Sanders to say.)

On some key character traits, Biden had an advantage over his potential opponents. And here too, his positive evaluations extended beyond Democrats. Biden scored better than Clinton and Sanders on honesty, right experience and empathy among Democratic primary voters as well as among registered voters overall. 

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Only 35 percent of voters nationwide viewed Clinton has honest and trustworthy, compared to 61 percent who saw Biden that way. 

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It should be noted that Bernie Sanders was less known to voters at the time and many could not rate him on these characteristics.

Biden received his highest favorable rating from Americans (53 percent) in CBS News polling as he was leaving office in January 2017. (President Obama's favorability rating rose at this time as well). Throughout the 2008 campaign, voters viewed Biden more positively than negatively. Opinions of him became more divided while he was in office.

Now that Biden is officially in the race, he'll see whether his popularity among Democrats holds up as he competes against a crowded and diverse field. The country's increasingly partisan politics will also test Biden's ability to maintain the crossover appeal he has enjoyed in the past.