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Biden Holds Lead Despite Trump Gains in Swing Counties

Monday, Nov. 2, 2020

Biden trusted more to handle pandemic

West Long Branch, NJ – Joe Biden holds a 5-point to 7-point lead over Donald Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania, according to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. The challenger has widespread backing from core Democratic constituencies, including young voters and people of color. These strengths offset small gains by the incumbent among senior voters and in the state’s most competitive counties. More voters trust Biden to handle the pandemic, which is a bigger issue advantage than Trump has on jobs or law and order.

Biden leads Trump by a 51% to 44% margin among likely Pennsylvania voters in a high turnout model+. The race stands at 50% Biden to 45% Trump in a low turnout scenario – which at this point would basically mean a large number of mail ballots have been rejected. Among all registered voters, 50% support Biden and 45% back Trump while another 1% support Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and 4% are undecided or won’t reveal their vote choice. The undecided number is up slightly from 2% last month.

The results show a smaller lead for the challenger compared to Monmouth’s poll last month, when Biden held an 11-point lead in a high turnout scenario and an 8-point lead in the low turnout model. That poll was taken immediately after the first debate, with half the interviews conducted after the public learned that Trump had just contracted Covid-19. Across three Pennsylvania polls conducted by Monmouth since the national party conventions, Biden’s share of the vote has ranged from 48% to 54% among likely voters while Trump’s support has ranged from 43% to 47%.

“All eyes have been on the Keystone State from the start. Pennsylvania voters may have responded more than most to key events, such as the conventions and the debates. This potential for movement is one reason why both campaigns have spent so much time there,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Regionally, Biden holds a 40-point lead (67% to 27%) among registered voters in four large Democratic counties Hillary Clinton won by a cumulative 35 points four years ago. Trump has a 20-point lead (57% to 37%) in the counties he won handily in 2016. This is consistent with his standing in these counties in prior polls, but remains tighter than the 34-point margin he had in the last election.

The swing counties* where vote margins were the closest in 2016 appear to have swung again. The race in these ten counties – which are concentrated in a swath that runs from west of Philadelphia into the northeast region of the commonwealth – currently stands at 49% for Trump and 45% for Biden. Voters in these counties gave the Democrat a 53% to 42% edge a month ago, but were divided at 46% for Trump and 44% for Biden in late August.

“Northeast Pennsylvania and other swing areas of the state are as hotly contested as they were four years ago. Even without an advantage in this region, Biden is able to hold a statewide lead on the back of strong support in core blue areas along with his ability to nibble away at Trump’s margins in deep red areas,” said Murray.

PENNSYLVANIA: VOTER MODELS
Presidential vote
choice:
Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
November   
Biden50%51%50%
Trump45%44%45%
   
Early October   
Biden54%54%53%
Trump42%43%45%
    
Late August   
Biden49%49%48%
Trump45%46%47%
    
Mid July   
Biden53%52%51%
Trump40%42%44%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 28-Nov. 1, 2020

Demographically, Biden holds a large lead among registered voters of color (81% to 10%). He also leads among white college graduates by 56% to 40%, while Trump leads among white voters without a four-year degree by 58% to 37%. The Democrat enjoys a wide margin among voters under 50 years old (57% to 35%) while the Republican commands the age 50 to 64 vote (54% to 40%). Senior voters aged 65 and older are more evenly divided at 50% for Biden and 49% for Trump. The challenger led among senior voters by between 10 and 13 points in Monmouth’s prior Pennsylvania polls. According to the National Election Pool exit poll, Trump won Pennsylvania senior voters by 10 points in 2016.

“Even when we control for demographic relationships in the sample, there can be some noisy results among these subgroups. The senior vote is up for grabs in Pennsylvania given the margin of error, but could end up decisively in either candidate’s camp on Tuesday. However, the trend in this poll is in line with recent Monmouth polls in Florida and Georgia last week, suggesting that Trump may be clawing back a little bit of the senior vote in the campaign’s final days while Biden is strengthening his position among younger voters and people of color,” said Murray.

The poll also finds that registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have a particularly rosy image of either candidate. Biden gets a 46% favorable and 45% unfavorable rating, which is down from 50% favorable and 44% unfavorable in early October. Trump gets a 42% favorable and 49% unfavorable rating, which is slightly better than his 40% favorable and 52% unfavorable rating last month.

Trump has a nominal, but not significant, edge on handling two issues – protecting jobs in Pennsylvania (45% trust him more while 42% trust Biden more) and maintaining law and order (44% trust Trump and 43% trust Biden). The challenger, on the other hand, has a larger advantage on one major concern – handling the coronavirus pandemic – 47% trust him more on this issue while 34% trust Trump.

Slightly more Pennsylvania voters expect Biden (46%) rather than Trump (41%) will win the election this week. This differs from the opinion of voters in states Monmouth recently polled. More thought the incumbent would beat the challenger in Florida (49% Trump and 41% Biden) and Georgia (51% to 42%). A national Monmouth poll in early September also found that more American voters thought Trump (48%) rather than Biden (43%) would emerge victorious.

Back in July, Pennsylvania voters were evenly divided over who they thought would win their own state – 46% said Trump would and 45% said Biden. Despite the apparent shift in overall voter expectations about the eventual winner, Republicans (45%) remain more likely than Democrats (20%) to feel very optimistic about this year’s presidential election in the current poll.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 28 to November 1, 2020 with 502 Pennsylvania registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

+   Monmouth’s likely voter models for the 2020 election are not forecasts. They are designed to present a range of reasonable outcomes based on voter intentions as of this moment (including ballots already cast as well as potential for undercounting among certain demographic groups due to election administration issues). Each registered voter is assigned a probabilistic weight between 0 and 1, based primarily on past voting history, with adjustments for self-reported likelihood to vote, motivation and other factors. Further adjustments are applied to the aggregate sample based on turnout propensities among different demographic groups (e.g. by race, gender, education).

* 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.)

[Note: Voters who report already casting their ballots were asked, “In the election for X, did you vote for…” for Q1.]

1.If the election for President was today, would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Biden the Democrat, or Jo Jorgensen the Libertarian? [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)Nov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020*
Donald Trump45%42%45%40%
Joe Biden50%54%49%53%
Jo Jorgensen1%1%2%n/a
(VOL) Other candidate<1%<1%<1%3%
(VOL) No one<1%<1%1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided4%2%4%4%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

* July 2020 question specified “another candidate.”

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020
Very optimistic29%19%33%27%
Somewhat optimistic32%34%30%36%
Somewhat pessimistic12%22%16%18%
Very pessimistic14%21%14%10%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care4%2%4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know8%2%3%5%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020
Very motivated89%88%85%85%
Somewhat motivated7%9%9%11%
Not that motivated3%3%6%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%0%0%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020
More enthusiastic51%47%48%42%
Less enthusiastic9%16%13%11%
About the same38%36%37%46%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%1%1%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

[QUESTIONS 5 & 6 WERE ROTATED]

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020
Very favorable27%27%29%25%
Somewhat favorable15%13%15%15%
Somewhat unfavorable5%6%6%7%
Very unfavorable44%46%45%47%
No opinion8%8%5%6%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
July
2020
Very favorable26%25%26%17%
Somewhat favorable20%25%22%28%
Somewhat unfavorable10%11%9%15%
Very unfavorable35%33%37%32%
No opinion8%6%6%9%
(n)(502)(500)(400)(401)

[QUESTIONS 7 & 8 WERE ROTATED]

7.Who do you trust more on maintaining law and order – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Donald Trump44%41%
Joe Biden43%45%
Both equally9%11%
(VOL) Neither2%3%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%
(n)(502)(500)

8.Who do you trust more on handling the coronavirus pandemic – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Donald Trump34%32%
Joe Biden47%52%
Both equally12%10%
(VOL) Neither4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%
(n)(502)(500)

9.Who do you trust more on protecting jobs in Pennsylvania – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Donald Trump45%
Joe Biden42%
Both equally8%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(502)

10.How will you vote this year – in person on Election Day, in person at an early voting location, or by mail ballot? [If ALREADY VOTED: How did you vote this year…?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
In person on Election Day60%64%
In person at an early voting location5%5%
By mail ballot33%28%
(VOL) Won’t vote at all0%0%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%
(n)(502)(500)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Oct.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very confident20%20%19%
Somewhat confident44%40%40%
Not too confident24%24%24%
Not at all confident11%14%15%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%2%
(n)(502)(500)(400)

12.Regardless of who you support now, who do you think will win the presidential election this year – Donald Trump or Joe Biden? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSNov.
2020
Donald Trump41%
Joe Biden46%
(VOL) Don’t know13%
(n)(502)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 28 to November 1, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 502 Pennsylvania voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 172 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 330 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 4.4 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
39% Republican
14% Other/none
47% Democrat
 
Self-Reported Party
35% Republican
28% Independent
37% Democrat
 
47% Male
53% Female
 
22% 18-34
22% 35-49
29% 50-64
27% 65+
 
82% White, non-Hispanic
11% Black
  4% Hispanic
  3% Asian/other
 
64% No degree
36% 4 year degree
 

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

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs