In the final weeks of the election, Democrat Joe Biden holds a 7-point lead over Republican President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, according to the latest Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll, released Friday.
Biden drew support from 51% of likely state voters, while 44% support Trump. That’s by no means a decisive lead — the poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 5.5%, which means as low as 45.5% could support Biden and as high as 49.5% could support Trump in a survey of all the state’s registered voters.
A slight majority (51%) of voters said the president does not deserve reelection and has handled the coronavirus pandemic poorly. However, Trump’s Pennsylvania supporters remain firmly in his corner. About 4 in 5 said they are very enthusiastic about voting for the president, whereas about half of Biden’s likely voters said they are very enthusiastic about their choice.
The poll of 416 likely Pennsylvania voters was conducted Oct. 13-20. It tracks with other recent state polls. According to fivethirtyeight.com’s adjusted polling average, Biden leads Trump by 6.1 percentage points in Pennsylvania.
Trump has a path to victory in Pennsylvania, but it narrows with each passing day he fails to put a dent in Biden’s favorability ratings, said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
“There are so few undecided voters out there compared to 2016, and while Trump’s approval ratings are slightly better than they were four years ago, his opponent is not viewed nearly as unfavorably,” Borick said.
The former vice president’s lead has grown slightly in recent months, Borick’s polling shows. Biden had a 4-point edge over Trump among Pennsylvania voters in an August poll, and was deadlocked with the president in a February poll that included hypothetical match-ups.
The spread between those who favor Trump (40%) and those who disfavor him (52%) has grown to 12 points, up from 9 points in August. An equal share (42%) approve and disapprove of Biden, an improvement from August, when 39% found him favorable and 46% found him unfavorable.
Biden supporters shouldn’t get too comfortable. Muhlenberg’s statewide survey of Pennsylvania voters in the week before the 2016 election showed Hillary Clinton leading Trump by 4 points when third-party candidates were included and by 6 points in a head-to-head match-up. Trump ultimately defeated Clinton by 44,000 of the 6 million votes cast, or less than a percentage point. He was the first Republican to carry Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes since 1988.
But again, 60% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton the week before the 2016 election, Borick’s polling shows, while only 35% found her favorable — making her just as unpopular as Trump. In the final two months of the race, Clinton never had more than 48% who said they would vote for her, and there were twice as many who said they planned to vote third party or said they were undecided. Biden’s fundamentals are stronger, Borick said.
This year, Pennsylvania is considered the most likely tipping-point state in the Electoral College, though Biden has opened up a 10-point lead in national polls. Trump has visited the Keystone State 10 times during the campaign, including a May rally in Upper Macungie Township. He’s scheduled to hold a rally in Bucks County on Monday (where Biden will visit Saturday), according to the Intelligencer.
There are about 694,000 more Democrats than Republicans registered to vote in Pennsylvania, about a 5.5-point difference.As for poll respondents, 47% are registered Democrats, while 41% are Republicans; 41% said they voted for Clinton in 2016, while 40% said they backed Trump.
Trump has mostly maintained support among Pennsylvania men, who favored him over Biden by 9 points in this week’s poll. But Biden leads among women by 21 points, and has increased his lead among college-educated voters to 20 points from 13 points in August. Biden holds a commanding lead among independent voters, with more than half saying they will vote for him. About a quarter say they will vote for Trump.
Trump now has a slight lead among voters ages 30-49, a turnaround since August. However, he now trails Biden by 20 points among voters 65 and older, a remarkable slip since August, when Biden’s lead among older voters was negligible.
The economy remains the top concern among Pennsylvania voters, and despite the pandemic-sparked recession, most voters still perceive their economic situation as the same or better than it was when Trump took office. However, the gap has shrunk in recent months, with 36% saying they are better off compared to the 40% who said the same in August. About 16% say they are worse off, up from 10% in August.
About 35% of voters say they have or will cast their ballot by mail, up from a quarter who planned to do so in August. However, a growing share (27%) fear Pennsylvania is unprepared to keep the election safe and secure, up from 20%.
Four in 10 consider voter fraud to be the biggest threat to the election, while one-third are most worried about voter suppression. Fewer are concerned about foreign interference, though the poll was conducted before the FBI announced that Iran and Russia were actively trying to intimidate voters.
Biden appeared to increase his edge in the Philadelphia suburbs, leading Trump by 20 points in this week’s poll. He also maintains considerable advantages in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, home of Pittsburgh.
Trump, meanwhile, maintains a large, if slightly shrinking, lead in Northeast Pennsylvania and a 12-point edge in the rest of the state.
In the state’s crucial 7th Congressional District, which includes the Lehigh Valley, Biden held a 7-point lead last month, according to another Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll. That poll showed Democratic U.S. Rep Susan Wild leading Republican challenger Lisa Scheller by 13 points. In 2016, the district’s voters favored Hillary Clinton over Trump by a mere point.
Statewide, 47% plan to vote for Democratic congressional candidates compared to 41% backing Republican candidates, according to this week’s poll.
Biden has been reluctant to say whether he would support increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court (court packing) if Republicans confirm Amy Coney Barrett. It’s not a particularly popular idea among Pennsylvanians, according to this week’s poll. Nearly half said they disagreed with court packing, while about a third said they at least somewhat supported the idea. The other 20% wasn’t sure.
But Pennsylvanians also don’t want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision establishing women’s right to have an abortion. About 1 in 4 said the decision should be overturned; about 54% disagreed.
Morning Call reporter Andrew Wagaman can be reached at 484-553-7413 or [email protected]
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