Where Trump and Biden stand on key issues ahead of the debate

President Biden and former President Trump will seek to contrast themselves on policy and current events as they face off in their first presidential debate since 2020 on Thursday night in Atlanta.

But the CNN debate presents a unique moment, given both men have established records and baked-in bases of support, leaving a small group of voters up for grabs.

Need a refresher on where each candidate stands on critical issues?

Here’s a look at what Biden and Trump have said on key issues.


Biden has made the issue of abortion a focal point of his campaign, saying he supports women’s reproductive freedoms.

Biden has pushed for Congress to restore abortion protections that were guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, where the medical procedure was legal until fetal viability, generally understood to be around 23 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. His administration has taken steps to protect abortion access post-Roe.

A practicing Catholic, Biden’s view on the issue of abortion has evolved over the years. He argued during an interview with Washingtonian magazine in 1974 that he thought the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision “went too far.”

“I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body,” he continued.

During a 2012 vice presidential debate against former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), while Biden acknowledged his faith and beliefs, he argued that he couldn’t impose those views on others.

“Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” Biden said at the time.

“I do not believe that — that we have a right to tell other people that women, they — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court — I’m not going to interfere with that,” he added later.

Trump has also shifted his position on the issue of abortion over the years.

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 1999, Trump described himself as “very pro-choice.”

The former president in recent years has lauded the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to an abortion, because he appointed three conservative justices while in office who would form the majority opinion in reversing the Supreme Court decision.

Trump has said that abortion policy should be left up to the states and has signaled he would not sign a federal abortion ban, though one is unlikely to make it to his desk. His administration backed a House bill that banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

At the same time, Trump has suggested some states have gone too far in their abortion laws. He called Florida’s six-week abortion ban “a terrible thing”  and suggested Arizona’s near-total abortion ban went too far. He has said he supports exceptions allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is at risk.

Foreign policy

The war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war have underscored a contrast in how Trump and Biden approach foreign policy and whom they consider allies.

Biden has supported providing aid to Ukraine throughout Russia’s invasion into the former Soviet Union and has rallied allies to do the same. He met this month with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while commemorating D-Day in Normandy, France, and during the Group of Seven summit in Italy.

Biden also signed a pact with Ukraine earlier this month indicating the U.S. remained committed to assisting the nation throughout the war.

Meanwhile, Biden has experienced a trickier balancing act with Israel. The president rallied behind Israel in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, saying during remarks more than a week after the attack that “as long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone.”

He’s also pushed back against the idea that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. But his administration’s approach has landed him in hot water with progressives and young voters, who have expressed outrage as tens of thousands have died in Gaza.

At the same time, Biden has pressed for a cease-fire in the region and has clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the war.

Trump’s approach to both conflicts differs, with the former president at times praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as “very savvy” and “smart.” He also suggested Russia could “do whatever the hell they want” if NATO member countries fail to meet a 2-percent gross domestic product minimum on defense spending.

Trump has claimed he would be able to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours if he were president, though he has not offered any specifics as to how he would do so.

The former president has criticized Israel for its counterattack in Gaza. During his first term, Trump was a big supporter of Israel, even moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has called for Israel to “finish the problem” and warned the Israelis are losing public support.


Biden sought to make the economy a strong point during his term, as his administration offered substantial COVID-19 relief, injecting cash into Americans’ pockets as they grappled with the pandemic.

But as the economy roared back from the COVID-19 recession, inflation skyrocketed as supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine and a historically strong labor market pushed prices higher. The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates to stabilize the economy amid the cash influx, bringing inflation down from four-decade highs to levels closer to 2 percent.

In addition to passing the American Rescue Plan in 2021, Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in 2022, which aimed to lower health care costs and incentivize investments in clean energy.

While prices are no longer rising at a rapid rate, Republicans used higher prices to criticize “Bidenomics,” arguing that Democratic policies are the reason Americans are still feeling a cognitive dissonance between economic progress and pain at the pump.

Biden has vowed not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 per year, while calling for an increase in taxes on billionaires and large corporations.

Trump argues that he would continue the work he started in his first term by increasing tariffs on other countries’ imports — a measure economists have warned would be a tax on American consumers. At a campaign stop in Las Vegas, the former president also proposed ending taxes on tips made by workers in the service industry.

Trump would also push to make permanent the tax cuts he signed into law in 2017. Those individual tax cuts are set to expire in 2025, while the cut to the corporate rate is already permanent.


The issue of immigration has been a tricky one for Biden.

The Biden administration sought to rescind Title 42 in 2022, but used the policy to expel more people than Trump had.

Title 42 began under Trump, ostensibly as a COVID-19 pandemic measure that allowed U.S. officials to quickly expel migrants at the border.

More recently, Biden announced executive action earlier this month that once again allowed summary expulsions of immigrants illegally entering the country to seek asylum. Biden’s measure kicks in when the seven-day average of border encounters exceeds 2,500 — a threshold that had been surpassed every month since February 2021 — while offering limited exceptions. The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that the seven-day average had fallen under 2,400 encounters.

Weeks after the asylum crackdown, the Biden administration expanded the parole-in-place program to include foreign nationals who have been in the country for at least a decade and have been married to a U.S. citizen.

Meanwhile, one of Trump’s most well-known immigration policies was “building the wall,” essentially building a barrier between Mexico and the U.S. He has used incendiary language as a core feature of his immigration pitch, saying migrants entering the country illegally are “poisoning the blood” of the nation.

Trump’s campaign website pledges to “end catch-and-release, restore Remain in Mexico, and eliminate asylum fraud.” He has called for a mass deportation of immigrants who entered the country illegally, and said he would need the help of local police to do it.


Biden’s American Rescue Plan included millions in funding for local police departments, and in 2022 he signed executive action that addressed police use of force and increased police accountability.

The executive action also established a database for federal law enforcement agencies that shows which police officers were removed from their positions over misconduct.

The Biden administration has also taken steps to address controversial policing practices, such as limited no-knock warrants and ending chokeholds done by federal law enforcement.

Earlier this month, Biden addressed a conference for gun safety. The White House has attempted to highlight its efforts to rein in mass shootings and other forms of gun violence, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, which enhanced background checks for gun purchasers aged 18 to 21, among other firearm restrictions.

Violent crime dropped considerably in early 2024 compared to the same time frame in 2023, the FBI said. The figures are seen as a victory for the Biden administration as the GOP focuses on crime ahead of the election.

Meanwhile, some of Trump’s past remarks on the issue of crime have included defunding federal agencies like the Justice Department and FBI. He’s also positioned himself as a staunch supporter of law enforcement, including supporting police immunity.

Trump signed the First Step Act, which reduced mandatory minimum sentences, expanded credits for well-behaved prisoners looking for shorter sentences and aimed to reduce recidivism. But Trump has made little mention of the criminal justice reform bill on the trail.

Sylvan Lane contributed

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