US election minus five weeks

Two strong polls for Biden in Pennsylvania make an Electoral College/popular vote split less likely, as Trump loses the first debate.

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.

Five weeks before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate gives Joe Biden a 7.6% lead over Donald Trump (50.5% to 42.9%). This is a slight improvement for Biden since last week, when he led by 7.3%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.0% in Michigan, 6.9% in Wisconsin, 5.6% in Pennsylvania, 3.7% in Arizona and 2.0% in Florida.

The best polling news for Biden was two Pennsylvania polls from FiveThirtyEight A+ rated pollsters. Both the Siena poll for The New York Times and the ABC/Washington Post poll gave Biden a nine-point lead in Pennsylvania.

If Biden wins states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he wins the Electoral College with at least 278 Electoral Votes (270 are required). The strong polls for Biden in Pennsylvania have moved it to be 2.0% more favourable for Trump than nationally; last week it was 2.7% better for Trump.

There are several states that are not near the Electoral College “tipping-point”, but where Biden is currently narrowly ahead or behind. Since last week, Biden has taken the lead in Ohio and Iowa, and is tied in Georgia. He trails by just two points in Texas. With Biden also narrowly ahead in North Carolina, it could be a blowout victory.

Biden is doing best relative to Clinton in the Midwestern and northeastern states where there are many who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, but Trump in 2016. In 2016, both Trump and Clinton were unpopular candidates, but this year Biden is currently at a net +3 favourability, while Trump is at -13 in RealClearPolitics averages. Biden appears to have some appeal to whites without a university education, who swung to Trump in 2016.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast still gives Trump a 21% chance to win the Electoral College, down 1% since last week. Trump wins the popular vote just 11% of the time. An article by Nate Silver says that, if the election were held today, Trump would have only a 9% chance to win.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 43.7% approve, 52.9% disapprove (net -9.2%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 44.2% approve, 52.7% disapprove (net -8.5%). His net approval has improved about one point since last week.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast gives Democrats a 68% chance to win, up 1% since last week. The most likely outcome is a narrow 51 to 49 Democratic majority, unchanged from last week. The forecast gives Democrats an 80% chance of holding between 47 and 55 seats after the election.

Biden wins first presidential debate

The first presidential debate between Biden and Trump occurred Tuesday. A CBS News post-debate scientific poll gave Biden a narrow 48-41 victory, while a CNN poll gave him a far more emphatic 60-28 win. Trump needed a clear win to change the current polling. There will be two more presidential debates on October 15 and 22, and a vice presidential debate on October 7.

The major headlines from the debate were that it was a shouting match, and Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists. I have said before that the US economy’s fast recovery from the April coronavirus lows is Trump’s best asset for re-election, but he did nothing during the debate to tell a positive story about the economy.

Concerning the Supreme Court fight over the replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Morning Consult poll found that a record 62% supported the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), while 24% were opposed. In March, this was 55-29 support. There is clear danger for Trump and Republicans in appointing a judge who will overturn Obamacare.

New Zealand poll: Labour short of majority

A new Colmar Brunton New Zealand poll has Labour on 47%, National 33%, ACT 8% and the Greens 7%. If repeated at the October 17 election, Labour would win 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. You can read more at my personal website.

15 comments on “US election minus five weeks”

  1. Any thoughts on how the undecideds will break? I find it odd that there are so many of them in polls of likely voters. As Colbert mentioned last night and born out by the very stable polling figures…. what is wrong with people who say they can’t decide but select the ‘likely voter” option when polled?

    538 appear to distribute the undecideds 50-50. My gut says it will be a lot more favourable to Ttump. This is mainly based on interviews I have seen of undecideds (admittedly a v small sample) who seem to be desperately seeking an excuse to vote for Trump.

    Has anyone found a demographic breakdown of the undecideds? Do we know if, in the past, they actually turnout to vote and do we expect them to do the same this time?

  2. Thanks Adrian

    Covid is ramping up again in the battleground states. Should impact on voting in these areas next few weeks

  3. Also just this week both the Disney theme parks located in California and also Florida laid off almost 30,000 workers. Obviously due to covid and the fires.
    Things are not going well at present

  4. Yes Simon Katich

    I feel the pollsters in the US have not successfully corrected for the last presidential elections miscalculation. And I am not convinced that Nate Silver has meta-compensated enough. It’s unusual times with Covid-19.
    So I don’t expect much accuracy. A swing to the Democrats is,on the evidence, to be expected.

  5. Undecideds.

    NYTimes have this from the lead up to 2018…
    Undecideds were “Politically similar, but not as engaged… Demographically similar, but more diverse and less educated” compared to decided voters.

    Undecideds certainly broke strongly to Trump in 2016, but not overwhelmingly… the problem for CLinton was there were so many of them;

    It’s sometimes said that undecideds tend to break to the challenger, but the empirical evidence on this is mixed…… . If only 3 percent of the electorate is undecided, then winning undecideds 3-2 — as Trump did in several swing states — will shift the overall outcome by less than 1 percentage point. But if 12 percent of the electorate is undecided, winning them by that ratio will produce a net swing of 2 to 3 points toward a candidate, potentially letting him overtake the front-runner.

    And this;

    Was it predictable that those late-deciding voters would break toward Trump? I tend to think mostly not and that the behavior of the late-deciders was instead mainly attributable to an unfavorable news environment for Clinton in the shadow of the James B. Comey letter to Congress and the Wikileaks dumps.

    And these are old but interesting;

  6. I’m not really sure about the 538 methodology with undecided, either. It would be interesting to hear William’s view.

    Regardless, based on the 538 methodology which does aggregate results from multiple sources, Biden’s polling lead has increased from 6.8% to 8.2% this morning, with the newest polls including the effect of Wednesdays debate. One might expect the lead to increase in coming days as more post-debate polls get added.

  7. Outsider, I watched as much of the last 538 podcast as I could stand (I get sleepy) and Silver said that the 538 forecast assumes the polls will tighten… but they may well widen considering the debate debacle. He qualified that with ‘that is not a prediction’, but I took it to be his feel for what would happen.

    He isnt just good at stats – he can be an astute observer.

    I would add tho that we havent had any post debate top tier polls come in yet.

  8. Simon Katich – I have developed an unhealthy fascination with the 538 moving average. The Trump Presidency has been so ghastly I can’t really bring myself to believe that it might be about to end. The bigger that number, the happier I feel!

  9. All well and good however Trump currently is 0.3 percent ahead of where he was in 2016 against Clinton in the Realclearpolitics top battlegrounds average.
    This is going to be a “base “ election and Biden has cooked the left with his comments at the debate about and lack of support for the GND and they won’t turn out in the same way BO’s supporters didn’t turn out for Hillarious!
    Trump was down against HRC in just about every state apart from Arizona on this same metric during the early part of October. In Wisconsin Trump was down by at least 6 points.

  10. Joe Biden is an incredibly incompetent candidate who shouldn’t be the nominee. There is a significant risk that he loses the most winnable presidential election in American history. This election should be a lay down misere for the Democrat because Donald Trump has an incomparably bad record on economic policy and the disaster response. But instead Trump has a 20 percent chance of winning. That reflects poorly on Biden’s performance. He is a dud. The people who supported him over Sanders in the primary put their nation at risk.

  11. The interest in the electoral race in the USA has now shifted to the Senate… To transform the USA from its current mess Biden will need the Democratic control of the Senate.

    I don’t see many people betting on a Trump win….

  12. “Now that Trump has been diagnosed with covid, does anyone really know how this will change the election dynamics”…

    If Trump is betting on attracting some sympathy, he will only attract sympathy from the voters who were going to vote for him anyway… But he may lose some of those voters if any evidence emerges that he faked this infection… as he fakes just about anything else…

  13. Looking at latest polling in US reported on 538 blog, Trump since the debate and Covid diagnosis has, if anything, blown out further in the race.

    Biden’s lead on the average of all national polls has gone out from 7% to 8 since the debate%.

    Trump now has a 17% chance of winning. Before the debate it was 21%. He has steadily dropped since the debate, and that has continued further since the covid announcement.

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