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.
This is an updated version of an article I had published for The Conversation on Wednesday.
With four weeks left until the November 3 election, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of US national polls gives Joe Biden a 9.5% lead over Donald Trump (51.7% to 42.2%). Biden’s lead has increased 1.9% since last week’s article.
In the key states, Biden leads by 7.7% in Michigan, 6.9% in Wisconsin, 6.9% in Pennsylvania, 4.6% in Florida and 4.4% in Arizona. If Biden wins the states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he wins the election with at least 278 of the 538 Electoral Votes.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are tied as the “tipping-point” states that could potentially put either Trump or Biden over the 270 EVs required to win. Pennsylvania has been polling closer to Wisconsin and Michigan than in the recent past. The current difference between Pennsylvania and the national vote is 2.6% in favour of Trump. At the moment, that gap isn’t much help to Trump.
There are five states where Biden is either just ahead or just behind: North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Iowa and Ohio. If Biden won all of them, he would win a blowout victory with over 400 EVs.
In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, Trump still has a 16% chance to win, though only a 7% chance to win the popular vote. Trump’s chances have declined 5% since last week. Still, a 18% chance is the probability of rolling a six on a six-sided die.
Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 43.4% approve, 53.3% disapprove (net -9.9%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.8% approve, 53.2% disapprove (net -9.4%). His net approval has declined about one point since last week. RealClearPolitics averages have Biden at +6 net favourable, while Trump is at -12.
The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate forecast gives Democrats a 72% chance to win, up 4% 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 48 and 55 seats after the election.
Perhaps there would have been some public sympathy for Trump had his coronavirus appeared to be bad luck. But it is likely Trump and other prominent Republicans’ coronavirus infections occurred at a September 26 event to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Pictures in the linked article show people sitting close together, without face masks. This created an impression of reckless conduct by Trump and other Republicans in ignoring medical advice.
In a CNN poll taken after Trump’s coronavirus, 60% disapproved and 37% approved of Trump’s handling of coronavirus; his -23 net approval is a record low on that issue. By 63-33, voters thought Trump had acted irresponsibly.
An additional problem for Trump is that coronavirus is back in the headlines. As Trump is perceived to have been poor on this issue, that helps Biden. New US daily cases have plateaued between 30,000 and 50,000.
US employment growth slows
The September US jobs report was the last before the November 3 election. 661,000 jobs were created, and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5% to 7.9%. This was the first month with fewer than a million jobs added since the April nadir. The unemployment rate has almost halved from April’s 14.7%. But the gain in September was mainly attributable to a 0.3% slide in the participation rate, to 61.4%.
Trump may have undermined his advantage on the economy by withdrawing from negotiations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a new stimulus bill. An article by analyst Nate Silver says stimulus spending was very popular: in a September Siena poll for The New York Times, voters supported a $US 2 trillion stimulus by a 72-23 margin.
NZ Colmar Brunton poll: Labour leads National by 47-32
With nine days left until the October 17 NZ election, a Colmar Brunton poll gave Labour 47% (steady since last week), National 32% (down one), the right-wing ACT 8% (steady), the Greens 6% (down one) and NZ First 2% (up one). Jacinda Ardern led Judith Collins as better PM by 50-23 (54-23 last week). This poll was conducted October 3-7 from a sample of 1,007.
If this was the election result, Labour would win 60 of the 120 seats, one short of a majority. National would win 41, ACT 11 and the Greens 8. However, the Greens will be anxious about clearing the 5% threshold, as NZ polls have tended to overstate them. If the Greens miss the threshold, Labour would win a majority on this poll, as it has a 47-40 lead over the combined vote for National and ACT. My personal website has more discussion of last week’s poll, including personal ratings of Ardern and Collins.