Published: 02 Nov 2020, 10:53 am
With two days to go, in the midst of deep voter fears about the coronavirus pandemic, Democrat Joe Biden has a commanding national lead over President Donald Trump, but Trump is holding his hopes alive by remaining competitive in the swing states that could decide the White House race.
As the public health crisis has continued, Biden's national lead over the Republican president has remained reasonably stable in recent months. In the new Reuters / Ipsos poll taken on October 27-29, he is ahead 51 percent to 43pc, reports Reuters.
But in enough state battlegrounds to earn him the 270 state Electoral College votes needed to secure a second term, Trump is still close to Biden. Polls by Reuters / Ipsos show that in Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona, the race remains a toss up.
In Pennsylvania, Trump also leads by five points and nine points in Michigan and Wisconsin, three other swing states that helped him secure an Electoral College victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in 2016.
But even without Michigan and Wisconsin, if Trump retains any of the other states he won in 2016, he will win again.
In the polls, Trump's deficit was motivated in part by an erosion of support of two large sections of his winning 2016 coalition, whites without a college degree and older Americans, and public criticism of his handling of the pandemic, which has become the race's dominant issue.
In handling Covid-19, which killed more than 227,000 people in the United States and cost millions more of their jobs, Biden and Trump have taken distinctly different approaches. The threat has been consistently diminished by Trump and promised to end soon, although Biden has vowed to give priority to more robust efforts to contain it.
Reuters / Ipsos polls show that more than three-quarters of American adults state that they are personally worried about the health crisis, and almost 60% disapprove of the way Trump has reacted to it.
In his ability to cope with the pandemic, Biden receives higher marks than Trump, and about 30 percent of Americans say their vote this year is largely motivated by their perception of who will be better at addressing the crisis.
Although Trump still has a slight lead over Biden on who will run the economy better, during the pandemic, that has become a smaller concern for many voters. Just 21 percent of likely voters said they are mainly searching for a president who is good on job growth and the economy.
Trump has not been able to skirt blame for the economic slowdown and job losses caused by the pandemic.
Nearly half of likely voters in three of the biggest state battlegrounds — Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — blame continued school and business closures on “poor leadership and policy decisions from President Trump.”
He has been hurt by Trump's response to the pandemic for older Americans, who are most at risk from the virus. Among voters who are at least 55 years old, a category Trump carried by 14 points in 2016, polls show a 4-point Biden lead.
Another major component of his winning coalition in 2016, Trump's advantage with non-college whites, has also decreased this year. The new polls show Trump leading by 18 percentage points among non-college whites, compared to 30 points in 2016.
Biden has also been successful in cutting Trump's support from college-educated white women, suburban men, and independents. This month's Reuters / Ipsos poll saw Biden winning white women college graduates by 27 percent, while Clinton earned 15 points in 2016. Biden also earns 18 points from independent voters, who earned seven points in 2016 for Trump.
Biden leads with suburban men by 12 points now. In March, they supported Trump by 1 point.
“Trump has never been one to try to expand his appeal in any way, and that has been true of his entire presidency and not just the campaign,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant.
“His theory was that he didn't need to expand his base because the independents who voted for him over Hillary would also vote for him over any liberal Democrat,” he said.
That theory was more difficult to put into practice against Biden, who ran as a moderate in the crowded Democratic presidential primaries against more liberal candidates.
More than a month ago, nearly nine of 10 Biden supporters and nine of 10 Trump supporters said they were “completely certain” they would not change their minds. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows only 6pc of likely voters are not currently backing a major party candidate. Four years ago, the number of similarly undecided voters was three times as high.