Voters are likely to support Biden about Trump by 54 to 45 percent, almost exactly matching a national ABC / Post poll released Sunday. The result includes more than a 2-to-1
See PDF for complete results, graphs and tables.
Trump’s primary task, however, is to overcome majority disapproval of his first term performance. As is the case nationwide, its overall job approval score is well under water in Pennsylvania: 43 to 55 percent, approve-disapprove. And it’s 42 to 57 percent for its pandemic management.
A shift from 2016 underscores Trump’s difficulty. Likely voters in this poll who report voting four years ago say they supported Trump over Hillary Clinton by 50 to 47 percent, close to the actual result, 48 to 47 percent. Today, Clinton voters favor Biden by 98 to 1%, but Trump slips, his 2016 supporters split 92 to 8%.
Like all pre-election polls, this poll measures current preferences among estimated probable voters; one or both can change. It is an open question, for example, whether Sunday’s New York Times report on Trump’s tax returns – one day after the interviews are completed – has any impact.
Trump has the ammunition in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates: a 20-point lead in strong enthusiasm among his supporters, 53% approval for running the economy, solid support in his base, and a clear advantage among voters who intend to vote in person on election day.
That said, Biden’s lack of enthusiasm could be offset by his antipathy towards Trump. Pennsylvania has recorded voters who strongly disapprove of the president’s job performance exceeding the number of strong supporters by 17 percentage points, 49 to 32 percent. It is similar nationwide.
Biden, too, could gain some energy from the pending replacement of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the US Supreme Court. Contrary to Trump and his party’s current course, 53% of registered voters in the state say the seat should be occupied by the election winner and the next Senate, not by Trump and the current Senate. Furthermore, 61% of Biden supporters say this issue makes it more important for them that Biden wins; Fewer Trump supporters, 41%, say the same about their candidate. The national results, again, are more or less similar.
One difference in Pennsylvania is the large percentage of registered voters who intend to vote in person on election day: 65% (and 67% of likely voters), compared to 45% of nationally registered voters. It was also lower, albeit in a wide range, in other ABC / Post polls this month: 59% in Minnesota and 51% in Wisconsin, dropping to 38% in Florida and 33% in Arizona.
It may matter: Voters forecast for Election Day favor Trump over Biden by 60 to 39 percent. Those intending to vote early, on the other hand, prefer Biden by a remarkable 87-13%. Ensuring those early and absent votes are cast and counted is a central concern for Biden’s campaign.
Unlike some elections where a single issue dominates, a mix of concerns is at stake. Twenty-five percent of Pennsylvania registered voters cite the economy as the main problem; for 18% it is the pandemic. 12 to 14% choose crime and security, equal treatment of racial groups or health care. Nine percent say it’s their next high court appointment.
Trump and Biden roughly evenly manage trust to manage two of these, the economy – 49 to 48 percent, Trump-Biden – and crime and security – 50 to 47 percent, Biden-Trump. Biden +9 points on upcoming Supreme Court nomination, +14 points on pandemic management, +17 points on health care and +20 points on confidence to manage equal treatment of racial groups.
Even with that almost uniform confrontation over the economy, likely voters citing the economy as the most important issue in their vote support Trump by 84-16%; this and crime and security are his best problems. Those focusing on the pandemic come back Biden, from 93 to 5 percent, and he leads by a wide margin among those who also cite health care and equal treatment.
As mentioned, views on the economy, pandemic, and protests against police misconduct are all important: attitudes about each of these independently predict candidate choice in a statistical model that controls partisanship, ideology, race / ethnicity and other demographic variables.
This is also reflected in the results of the direct voting preference: Biden leads by 69 points among those who rate the economy negatively, 73 points among those who support the protests and 51 points among those who are concerned about the coronavirus catch – majority groups in any case. Trump leads with wide margins between their opposites.
Demographically, women, college-educated voters and moderates are key elements of Biden’s support.
The Democrat leads among women 61 to 38 percent, while men divide much more closely, 53 to 46 percent Trump-Biden, a large 30-point gender gap. Among whites alone, men prefer Trump 60 to 39%, while white women support Biden 56 to 43%.
The gap is narrower in the suburbs, but still notable, given that suburban residents represent six out of 10 likely voters in the state. The race is essentially deadlock among suburban men – 51 to 49 percent, Trump-Biden – while it’s 59 to 41 percent, Biden-Trump, among suburban women. This produces an overall result in the suburbs of 54 to 45%, exactly matching the race across the state.
Regionally, Biden leads 69 to 31 percent in suburban Philadelphia, up from 55 to 42 percent in Clinton four years ago. Biden also improved Clinton’s result in western Pennsylvania, while the race in the other regions of the state is more like it was four years ago.
Trump cruises among the conservatives, with 87% support, as does Biden among the liberals, 92%. Moderates split by a large margin in Biden’s favor, 63 to 35%, with another large gender gap. Biden’s +7 points among moderate men increases to +47 among moderate women, a gap of 40 points.
Other divisions are also broad. Among the likely voters who did not go beyond high school, there is Trump +18 points; among those graduates, Biden +29. And it’s also roughly 51 to 48 percent Trump-Biden among whites, while Biden leads by a wide margin among racial and ethnic minorities.
The shift from 2016 among university-educated whites is particularly significant. In the ABC News Pennsylvania exit poll four years ago, this group split exactly evenly, from 48 to 48 percent. Of the likely voters today, college-educated whites support Biden from 61 to 38 percent. This includes 63 to 35 percent race among college-educated white women. But here, the big change is among college-educated white men. They supported Trump 56 to 39 percent in 2016. Today, it’s almost exactly reversed, 57 to 42 percent in favor of Biden.
This ABC News / Washington Post poll was conducted from landline and cell phone interviews September 21-26, 2020 on a random sample of 702 Pennsylvania registered voters and 567 probable voters. The results have margins of sampling error of 4.5 points among registered voters and 5.0 points among probable voters. The partisan divisions – Democratic-Republican-independent – are 38-32-23% among the registered voters and 39-34-21% among the probable voters.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey methodology here.