Will Michigan & Wisconsin Voters Determine 2020 Presidential Election?

By Jim Ellis

April 6, 2020 — Polls were just released in both Michigan and Wisconsin, obviously two critically important states that will weigh heavily in determining the final outcome of the next presidential election. While it’s too early to take any general election poll as a true projection of what may happen in November, particularly in light of the current unique situation, the survey did reveal some interesting points.

Progress Michigan’s Lake Effect newsletter: “The governors’ approval ratings pertaining to the [coronavirus] crisis are better than those of the president.”

Public Policy Polling tested the Michigan electorate for the Progress Michigan progressive left organization (March 31-April 1; 1,01 registered Michigan voters) and Marquette Law School just completed their quarterly survey of Wisconsin voters (March 24-29; 81 registered Wisconsin voters). Both made public their results.

We won’t pay too much attention to the ballot tests because it is so far away from the actual vote and the political situation is obviously going to change during the coming months, but the two pollsters found President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden within the margin of error in each state. In both cases, it was Biden who enjoyed a three-point lead.

Within this prism, it is important to recall the 2016 race in which polling badly underestimated Trump’s strength against Hillary Clinton in these two places. According to the 270 To Win organization, which tracked polling throughout that election year, the final averages going into the final weekend found Trump trailing by six points in Michigan and seven in Wisconsin. He won each state by approximately one percentage point, thus proving a large error factor in virtually all of the late polling.

A post-election analysis in which the Pew Research Center and CNN participated, among other firms and media outlets, concluded that a major reason for the flawed projections were the much larger number of Democrats willing to respond to the polling questions than Republicans. Even understanding this was the case at the time, the pollsters’ weighting formulas and algorithms still badly missed the mark throughout the crucial Great Lakes region.

Not surprisingly, many questions on these current polls dealt with coronavirus and here, as in most other places, the governors’ approval ratings pertaining to the crisis are better than those of the president. President Trump’s ratings, however, are still acceptable, but slightly upside-down in Michigan.

Therefore, the Trump-coronavirus Michigan approval ratio is a bit inconsistent with his statewide ballot performance, thus raising reliability questions. Given the PPP ratio is 46:49 percent Trump approval to disapproval on a coronavirus question where most officials are doing much better – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) scores 62:28 percent, for example – one would expect the president’s ballot test number to be considerably worse than the 45-48 percent deficit he scores against Biden.

By contrast, Trump’s coronavirus approval is better in Wisconsin, where he records a 51:46 percent positive to negative ratio. To be three points behind on the ballot test corresponds better to this approval response total especially when seeing the same respondents give Gov. Tony Evers (D) a 76 percent approval score for his role in handling the virus crisis.

As is almost always the case when involving President Trump, even his coronavirus ratios are polarized on a partisan basis. The Wisconsin poll is segmented by political party, which gives us important clues as to how the electorate may view the general election.

Among Wisconsin Republicans, Marquette Law School finds that President Trump’s coronavirus approval rating breaks 88:10 percent favorable. Democrats, on the other hand, come to the opposite conclusion. Their ratio is almost the exact reverse, 11:86 percent. Contrast this with Gov. Evers scoring 89:7 percent among Democrats, and 63:27 percent within the Republican segment.

Putting partisanship aside, the good news in this poll for President Trump comes from political Independents. They approve of his coronavirus handling at a 59:39 percent positive ratio and give him an overall job approval score of 59:35 percent.

While these polls provide an interesting snapshot about how these two critical state electorates view the present political situation, the results tell us that neither President Trump nor Joe Biden can fully count on these places to go their way. This confirms the early thoughts that Michigan, Wisconsin, and adding neighboring Pennsylvania, will be the battleground states that, in the end, will likely tip the balance of power just as they did four years ago.

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