Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

The CNBC survey was mostly focused on the respondents’ reactions to the COVID-19 situation, but political questions were also a part of the poll questionnaire.

CNBC reports a very different conclusion than the other pollsters. They looked at their six states’ sample in aggregate, and actually found President Trump leading former VP Biden by a single percentage point, 48-47 percent. This does not necessarily mean that this respondent universe produced significantly varied totals from the other pollsters in the individual states but does change the overall perspective in that the president looks to be stronger than the other pollsters detected.

CNBC concentrated on issues and attitudes rather than a straight ballot test emphasis. Here, they found Trump and Biden running evenly on just about every question. In terms of who would do a better job handling the Coronavirus situation, the respondents leaned Biden’s way, 51-49 percent; on who would do better reviving the economy, Trump, 52-48 percent.

Biden also held slight advantages to questions about whether the respondents believed the individual candidate was better for bringing about healthcare affordability, relying on facts and science to make decisions, and about preventing another pandemic. The answer margin, however, was small — between 52 and 47 percent on every question. This suggests that the electorate in these most important battleground states is splitting just about evenly between the two candidates in almost the same manner on virtually every question posed.

Once again, we see divergent polling and data from different pollsters during relatively the same time frame that yields some positive points for both candidates. The results are also generally pointing to a close political contest, which is nothing new for a recent presidential campaign.

We must also take into account that these are unique times for the American people, which means their perspectives may greatly change once the society re-opens and individual lives return to normal, or at least come close to normal. At that future point, the political campaign will take center stage, and we could begin to witness substantially different attitudes and perceptions. It is simply too early to tell, however, just what changes to expect, and who will be the ultimate beneficiary.

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