Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Donald Trump vs Joe Biden polls, Biden leads Trump by 6.9% (50.3% to 43.4%). This is an improvement for Trump from three weeks ago, when he trailed by 8.2%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.5% in Michigan, 6.8% in Wisconsin, 5.0% in Arizona, 4.8% in Pennsylvania and 2.3% in Florida.
In my article three weeks ago, the difference in Trump’s favour between the Electoral College tipping-point state and the national vote had widened to three points, but this difference has fallen back to two points, with Arizona and Pennsylvania currently two points more favourable to Trump than national polls.
If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he gets exactly 269 Electoral Votes, one short of the 270 required for a majority. Maine and Nebraska award one EV to the winner of each of their Congressional Districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states award their EVs winner-takes-all.
Under this scenario, Biden would need one of either Nebraska’s or Maine’s second CDs for the 270 EVs required to win the Electoral College. Nebraska’s second is a more likely win for Biden as it is an urban district.
The US economy has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus nadir in April. Owing to this, the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects some narrowing as the election approaches. Every day that passes without evidence of narrowing in the tipping-point states is bad news for Trump. Biden’s chances of winning in the forecast have increased from a low of 67% on August 31 to 76% now.
While Trump has improved slightly in national polls, some state polls have been very good for Biden. Recently, Biden has had leads of 16 points in Minnesota, 21 points in Maine, 10 in Wisconsin and 10 in Arizona.
Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 43.1% approve, 52.8% disapprove (net -9.7%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.9% disapprove (net -9.1%). In the last three weeks, Trump has gained about two points on net approval, continuing a recovery from July lows.
The RealClearPolitics Senate map has 47 expected Democratic seats, 47 Republican seats and six toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51-49, unchanged from three weeks ago.
Coronavirus and the US economy
The US has just passed the grim milestone of over 200,000 deaths attributable to coronavirus. However, daily new cases have dropped into the 30,000 to 40,000 range from a peak of over 70,000 in July. Lower media attention on the coronavirus crisis assists Trump.
In the US August jobs report, 1.4 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 1.8% to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has greatly improved from its April nadir of 14.7%. The headline jobs gained or lost are from the establishment survey, while the household survey is used for the unemployment rate. In August, the household survey numbers were much better than the establishment survey, with almost 3.8 million jobs added.
It is probably fortunate for Biden that the September jobs report, to be released in early October, will be the last voters see before the election. The October report will be released November 6, three days after the election.
I believe Trump should focus on the surging economy in the lead-up to the election, and ignore other issues like the Kenosha violence and culture war issues.
With the election drawing closer, I will do these reports every week from now on.
NZ: poll drought continues
A month out from the October 17 New Zealand election, there have not been any media-commissioned polls since late July. The only recently reported poll is a privately-commissioned UMR poll, conducted August 25 to September 2. That gave Labour 53%, National 29%, ACT 6.2%, NZ First 3.9% and the Greens just 3.2%.
The Greens’ low figure in this poll is very different from a Morgan NZ poll, conducted during August, which had the Greens on 11.5%. That poll gave Labour 48% and National 28.5%. Unless a party wins a single-member seat, the threshold required to enter parliament is 5%.