Biden v Trump – where do to the polls stand?

Credit: Phil Roeder and Office of the President of the United States

It is 17 weeks until voters in the United States will decide whether to re-elect Donald Trump as president for the next four years or opt for Democratic leadership under former vice-president Joe Biden.

With incumbent presidents often having an advantage over their competitors (only four presidents have lost re-election in the last 100 years), Trump should go into this election as the favourite. Whilst the president has been notable for low approval ratings during his time in office, these have begun to increase to almost all-time highs in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd. However, in the coming months, his handling of the pandemic and the recession that will follow will come under intense scrutiny.

On a national level, RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregation of opinion polls gives Biden a lead over President Trump of 8.7 percent. By comparison, at this point in the campaign in 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by 3.3 percent.

However, as the last presidential proved, a lead in the national popular vote does not necessarily result in victory, as the winner of the election is determined by the Electoral College. Each state is allocated a certain number of delegates, with the winner of a state taking that state’s delegates. Once a candidate reaches over 270 delegates in total, they have won the presidency.

To determine who is leading the race state by state, here is a look at the most recent polling in each of the nation’s 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. In states without recent polling data, their result at previous elections will be factored in to their classification. Data is taken from aggregate polling from Real Clear Politics where possible.

In the map above, each state is coloured based on either candidate’s poll lead. The darker blue a state shows stronger support for Biden, darker red means stronger support for Trump and grey means to state is too close to call.

Based on this projection, Biden is likely to win the presidency with an Electoral College count of at least 334, compared to Donald Trump’s 304 in 2016. The former vice-president is expected, based on current polling, to flip the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Maine’s second congressional district. Ohio could also switch to Biden too, as it is currently a dead heat between both candidates.

A poll from May gave Biden a lead of 11 points in Nebraska’s second congressional district. The only time the Democrats have won the electoral vote in the state was in 2008 under Obama. Given the state’s history and the fact this is only one poll, I have classed Nebraska’s second congressional district as tilt for Trump until further polling comes out.

Another poll from June in Missouri gives Biden a narrow lead over Trump but again, because of the Republicans’ record in the state, I’ve rated this as likely Republican until other polling support a Democratic lead.

Biden has gained a strong lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – three states that deprived Clinton of victory in 2016. He also has a lead in Florida, New Hampshire and Nevada as well as a slight advantage in Arizona and North Carolina. This puts President Trump, currently, at a significant disadvantage. Even Ohio, a bellweather state which supported Trump over Clinton by eight percent, is tied in the polling average.

However, if we compare the current state of the race to last week, we can see that Biden’s lead has slightly ebbed in some states – namely Florida and Arizona, and has increased his lead in Texas. This could signal a Trump revival in the polls, but despite this slight resurgence Biden still currently holds strong enough support to ensure he wins the crucial 270 in November.

As of July 7th, The Economist’s election model gives Biden a 89 percent chance of winning the presidency and a 98 percent chance of winning the most votes nationwide.

Although 538 has not officially launched its election model, its current polling averages by state put Biden on 368 to Trump’s 126, with three states – Iowa and Georgia regarded as ‘tossup’.

However, with 17 weeks of the election campaign still to go, this forecast could easily shift in either direction before November 3rd, particularly amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

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