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Presidential Race Tightens

Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020

Democrats lead in other state contests

West Long Branch, NJ – Joe Biden holds a 4-point lead over Donald Trump among all registered voters in Pennsylvania according to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. Among likely voters, the race is a tight 1 to 3 points, depending on the expected turnout level. This shift from Biden’s larger lead just over six weeks ago is due to declining support for the challenger among men, voters under age 50, and voters in key swing counties. The generic House ballot also remains close, while Democrats are in a generally better position in a trio of contests for statewide offices. The poll also finds that a small, but important, portion of the electorate agrees with the Republican message that the American suburbs are under threat.

Among all registered voters in Pennsylvania, the race for president stands at 49% for Biden and 45% for Trump. Another 2% support Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, less than 1% back the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, and 4% are undecided. Voter intent includes 43% who say they are certain to vote for Biden (versus 44% who say they are not at all likely to support the Democrat) and 40% who are certain to support Trump (versus 47% who are not at all likely).

The contest tightens when different likely voter models are applied. A model based on a somewhat higher level of turnout than 2016 puts the race at 49% for Biden and 46% for Trump, while one reflecting lower turnout has it at 48% for Biden and 47% for Trump.

The current results mark a narrowing of the wide lead Biden held in Pennsylvania in mid-July when his polling support nationally reached a summertime peak. Monmouth’s prior poll showed registered voter intent at 53% for Biden (with 45% certain) and 40% for Trump (with 36% certain). The high turnout likely voter model had a 10-point lead for the Democrat (52% to 42%) and the low turnout model had a 7-point lead (51% to 44%).

“This is really a game of inches. The Trump campaign is looking to peel off a little bit of Biden support here and a little bit there. It may be working, despite the fact that Pennsylvania voters personally like the Democrat more, although this gap has narrowed,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Biden now has a 48% favorable to 46% unfavorable rating, including 37% very unfavorable. In mid-July this rating stood at 45% favorable to 47% unfavorable (with 32% very unfavorable). In comparison, 44% of Pennsylvania voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 51% have an unfavorable one – including 45% very unfavorable. His July rating was 40% favorable to 54% unfavorable (with 47% very unfavorable).

PENNSYLVANIA: VOTER MODELS
Presidential vote
choice:
Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
Late August   
Biden49%49%48%
Trump45%46%47%
Other2%2%2%
Undecided4%3%3%
    
Mid July   
Biden53%52%51%
Trump40%42%44%
Other3%3%2%
Undecided4%3%3%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Aug. 28-31, 2020

Biden maintains a solid 59% to 35% lead among women (similar to 60% to 34% in July), but he has lost ground among men. They prefer Trump by 56% to 37%, compared with a much closer 47% to 45% margin in July. Biden is holding onto his edge among voters aged 65 and older (53% to 42% now and 52% to 42% in July), while Trump has the advantage among voters 50 to 64 years old (54% to 45% now and 56% to 43% in July). Biden maintains a lead among voters under age 50 (49% to 40%), but it is not as sizable as it was just over six weeks ago (60% to 29%). There has not been much change among white voters, including those with a college degree (58% Biden to 40% Trump now and 61% to 34% in July) and those without a college education (57% Trump to 35% Biden now and 55% to 39% in July). Voters of color have become somewhat less certain of their choice. Biden maintains a sizable lead with this group (72% to 15% versus 76% to 16% in July), but a larger number are now undecided (9% now versus 3% in July).

“The Republican convention attempted to sow some seeds of doubt among core Democratic blocs, especially young and urban voters. It looks like they may have had a small amount of success with that, at least for now,” said Murray. Interviewing for the poll started on Friday after the RNC, with most being completed before Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Trump has increased his support in ten counties where the vote margins were closest in the 2016 presidential election. In these swing counties*, which are concentrated in a swath that runs from the Philadelphia suburbs into the northeast region of the commonwealth, the race stands at 46% for Trump and 44% for Biden. Just over six weeks ago, Biden had a sizable 54% to 35% lead among voters in this key county grouping. Hillary Clinton won the aggregate vote in these ten counties by just over one percentage point four years ago.

“There’s a reason Trump campaigned in Scranton during the Democratic convention. This crucial region of the commonwealth is still up for grabs,” said Murray.

– Other contests –

The Monmouth University Poll also posed a generic ballot test for the U.S. House of Representatives election, which shows 48% of registered voters currently supporting the Democratic candidate in their district and 45% backing the Republican. This result stood at a similar 49% to 45% in Monmouth’s July poll. Applying likely voter models to the current sample, high turnout puts the statewide vote choice at 48% Democrat and 46% Republican while low turnout has it at 48% Democrat and 47% Republican.

In 12 congressional districts where the winning margin for either party was greater than 15 points in 2018, the Democrats lead by 8 points (51% to 43%). In the six most competitive districts, though, the Republicans lead by 10 points (50% to 40%). In July, the Democrats held small leads in both the safe seats (49% to 46%) and the competitive ones (48% to 43%).

“Republican gains on the generic ballot in competitive seats should worry Democrats. Only district-level polling can tell if this is because GOP incumbents are bulking up their margins or if GOP challengers are eating into support for Democratic incumbents,” said Murray. Three of the competitive seats were won by the GOP in 2018 (PA01, PA10, PA16) by between 2 and 4 points and three were won by Democrats (PA07, PA08, PA17) by between 9 and 12 points.

Democrats seem to be in better position to hold onto statewide offices on the ballot this year. In the race for Attorney General, incumbent Josh Shapiro leads Heather Heidelbaugh by 10 points among all registered voters (51% to 41%), by 11 points in the high turnout model (52% to 41%) and by 9 points in the low turnout model (51% to 42%). In the State Treasurer contest, incumbent Joe Torsella leads Stacy Garrity by 5 points among all registered voters (45% to 40%), by 5 points in the high turnout model (46% to 41%) and by 3 points in the low turnout model (45% to 42%). The open seat contest for Auditor General is closer, though, with Democrat Nina Ahmad at 43% and Republican Timothy DeFoor at 41%, although the Democrat gains some ground among likely voters – leading by 3 points in both the high turnout (45% to 42%) and low turnout (45% to 42%) models. It is worth noting that there are higher numbers of undecided voters in the elections for Treasurer (13%) and Auditor General (12%) than there is for Attorney General (7%). In 2016, Shapiro won the open-seat Attorney General race by 2 points (51% to 49%) and Torsella won the open-seat Treasurer contest by 7 points (51% to 44%). Current Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who is term-limited, won a second term by 5 points over his Republican opponent (50% to 45%).

“Pennsylvania Democrats bucked the trend in 2016 by winning three statewide offices while losing federal races for president and U.S. Senate. And it looks like they might outperform the top of the ticket again this year,” said Murray.

PENNSYLVANIA: VOTER MODELS
State office:Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
Attorney General   
Shapiro (D)51%52%51%
Heidelbaugh (R)41%41%42%
Other1%1%1%
Undecided7%6%6%
    
Treasurer   
Torsella (D)45%46%45%
Garrity (R)40%41%42%
Other1%1%<1%
Undecided13%12%12%
    
Auditor General   
Ahmad (D)43%45%45%
DeFoor (R)41%42%42%
Other3%3%2%
Undecided12%11%12%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Aug. 28-31, 2020

– Other issues –

Speakers at the Republican National Convention made a direct appeal to voters who may be concerned that their suburban communities are being threatened. When asked about different people moving into nice neighborhoods who may bring crime and lower property values, 12% of Pennsylvania voters say this is a major problem and 27% say it is a minor problem, while 52% say it is not a problem. Republicans (48%) are most likely to say this is at least a minor problem, but they are joined in this view by at least 3 in 10 independents (39%) and Democrats (30%). Just under 1 in 4 voters (23%) say they are concerned about this type of thing happening in their own community, including 26% of Republicans, 24% of Democrats, and 17% of independents.

 “About 1 in 6 Democrats who actually agree with the GOP’s warning of a threat to the suburbs say they will vote for Trump. Now, this group represents a fairly small proportion of the total electorate, but it is still large enough to make a difference in a very close election,” said Murray.  

On the larger issue of race relations, more Pennsylvania voters say they have confidence in Biden’s ability to handle this issue (53% great deal/some and 45% not much/none at all) than say the same about Trump (42% great deal/some and 55% not much/none at all).

Another weak spot for the president continues to be his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, 45% of registered voters say he has done a good job while 53% say he has done a bad job. Public opinion on this question was a similar 42% good to 56% bad in July. By contrast, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, earns praise on this issue – 62% say he has done a good job (67% in July) and 36% say he has done a bad job (29% in July).

Republican voters (51% now; 42% in July) continue to be much more likely than Democrats (26% now; 18% in July) to say they are very optimistic about the 2020 presidential election. They have also caught up on the metric of feeling more enthusiastic about this contest compared to past elections (52% Republicans and 49% Democrats now; 42% Republicans and 53% Democrats in July).

Just over 4 in 10 (42%) Pennsylvania voters report they are at least somewhat likely to cast their vote by mail this year, with Democrats (68%) being much more likely than independents (37%) or  Republicans (17%) to say they will do this. The partisan divide is less stark on confidence that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately. This sentiment registers at 59% at least somewhat confident among all registered voters, 66% among Democrats, 55% among independents, and 55% among Republicans.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 28 to 31, 2020 with 400 Pennsylvania registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

* 2016 presidential margin by county groupings:

Swing (26% of vote) – counties where the winning margin for either candidate was less than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 48.6% Clinton and 47.4% Trump (Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Dauphin, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton).

Clinton (34% of vote) – Clinton won these counties by more than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 66.3% to 30.7% (Allegheny, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia).

Trump (40% of vote) – Trump won these counties by more than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 64.8% to 31.4% (remaining 53 counties).

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1. If the election for President was today, would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Biden the Democrat, Jo Jorgensen the Libertarian, or Howie Hawkins of the Green Party?  [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Donald Trump or Joe Biden?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Aug.
2020
July
2020*
Donald Trump45%40%
Joe Biden49%53%
Jo Jorgensen2%n/a
Howie Hawkins<1%n/a
(VOL) Other candidate0%3%
(VOL) No one1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided4%4%
(n)(400)(401)

* July 2020 question specified “another candidate.”

[1A.  If Trump/Biden voter, ASK: Are you certain about your vote choice, or might you change your mind before election day?]

[QUESTIONS 2 & 3 WERE ROTATED]

2. What is the likelihood that you might vote for Donald Trump in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Certain for Trump (from Q1/A)40%36%
Very likely 2%2%
Somewhat likely 4%5%
Not too likely4%5%
Not at all likely47%49%
(VOL) Don’t know3%2%
(n)(400)(401)

3. What is the likelihood that you might vote for Joe Biden in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Certain for Biden (from Q1/A)43%45%
Very likely 2%3%
Somewhat likely 4%6%
Not too likely4%4%
Not at all likely44%40%
(VOL) Don’t know3%2%
(n)(400)(401)

4. If the election for U.S. House of Representatives was held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate in your Congressional district? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: At this time do you lean more toward the Republican or more toward the Democratic candidate?]

 TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Aug.
2020
July
2020
Republican45%45%
Democratic48%49%
(VOL) Other candidate 1%1%
(VOL) No one1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided5%5%
(n)(400)(401)

[QUESTIONS 5-7 WERE ROTATED]

5. If the election for Pennsylvania state Attorney General was today, would you vote for … Heather Heidelbaugh the Republican, Josh Shapiro the Democrat, Daniel Wassmer the Libertarian, or Richard Weiss of the Green Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Heather Heidelbaugh or Josh Shapiro?]

REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Aug.
2020
Heather Heidelbaugh41%
Josh Shapiro51%
Daniel Wassmer1%
Richard Weiss<1%
(VOL) No one1%
(VOL) Undecided7%
(n)(400)

6. If the election for Pennsylvania state Auditor General was today, would you vote for … Timothy DeFoor the Republican, Nina Ahmad the Democrat, Jennifer Moore the Libertarian, or Olivia Faison of the Green Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Timothy DeFoor or Nina Ahmad?]

REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Aug.
2020
Timothy DeFoor41%
Nina Ahmad43%
Jennifer Moore2%
Olivia Faison1%
(VOL) No one1%
(VOL) Undecided12%
(n)(400)

7. If the election for Pennsylvania State Treasurer was today, would you vote for … Stacy Garrity the Republican, Joe Torsella the Democrat, Joe Soloski the Libertarian, or Timothy Runkle of the Green Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Stacy Garrity or Joe Torsella?]

REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Aug.
2020
Stacy Garrity40%
Joe Torsella45%
Joe Soloski1%
Timothy Runkle0%
(VOL) No one2%
(VOL) Undecided13%
(n)(400)

[QUESTIONS 8 & 9 WERE ROTATED]

8. Is your general impression of Donald Trump very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very favorable29%25%
Somewhat favorable15%15%
Somewhat unfavorable6%7%
Very unfavorable45%47%
No opinion5%6%
(n)(400)(401)

9. Is your general impression of Joe Biden very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very favorable26%17%
Somewhat favorable22%28%
Somewhat unfavorable9%15%
Very unfavorable37%32%
No opinion6%9%
(n)(400)(401)

10. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 2020 presidential election? [Is that very or somewhat optimistic/pessimistic]?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very optimistic33%27%
Somewhat optimistic30%36%
Somewhat pessimistic16%18%
Very pessimistic14%10%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%
(n)(400)(401)

11. How motivated are you to vote in the November election for president – very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not that motivated?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very motivated85%85%
Somewhat motivated9%11%
Not that motivated6%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
(n)(400)(401)

12. Compared to past elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual, less enthusiastic, or about the same as past elections?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
More enthusiastic48%42%
Less enthusiastic13%11%
About the same37%46%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(400)(401)

13. How likely are you to cast your vote by mail in the November election rather than in person – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Very likely29%
Somewhat likely13%
Not too likely6%
Not at all likely49%
(VOL) Won’t vote at all1%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(400)

14. Overall, how confident are you that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately – very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Very confident19%
Somewhat confident40%
Not too confident24%
Not at all confident15%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(400)

15. How much of a problem do suburban communities face today because of different people moving into nice neighborhoods who may bring in crime and lower property values? Is this a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Major problem12%
Minor problem27%
Not a problem52%
(VOL) Depends1%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
(n)(400)

16. How concerned are you about this happening in your own community – very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not at all concerned?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Very concerned10%
Somewhat concerned13%
Not too concerned26%
Not at all concerned48%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(400)

[QUESTIONS 17 & 18 WERE ROTATED]

17. How much confidence do you have in Donald Trump’s ability to handle race relations – a great deal, some, not much, or none at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Great deal24%
Some18%
Not much7%
None at all48%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(400)

18. How much confidence do you have in Joe Biden’s ability to handle race relations – a great deal, some, not much, or none at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
Great deal25%
Some28%
Not much13%
None at all32%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(400)

[QUESTIONS 19 & 20 WERE ROTATED]

19. Has Donald Trump done a good job or bad job handling the coronavirus outbreak?  [Is that very or somewhat good/bad?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very good22%25%
Somewhat good23%17%
Somewhat bad10%10%
Very bad43%46%
(VOL) Don’t know2%2%
(n)(400)(401)

20. Has Governor Tom Wolf done a good job or bad job handling the coronavirus outbreak?  [Is that very or somewhat good/bad?]

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2020
July
2020
Very good34%32%
Somewhat good28%35%
Somewhat bad13%8%
Very bad23%21%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%
(n)(400)(401)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 28 to 31, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 400 Pennsylvania voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 139 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 261 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for party registration, age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the full voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
REGISTERED VOTERS
 
Party Registration
38% Republican
14% Other/none
48% Democrat
 
Self-Reported Party
32% Republican
30% Independent
38% Democrat
 
47% Male
53% Female
 
22% 18-34
22% 35-49
29% 50-64
27% 65+
 
82% White, non-Hispanic
11% Black
  4% Hispanic
  2% Asian
  1% Other race
 
60% No degree
40% 4 year degree
 

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs