As campaigning for the US Presidential Election ramps up in the aftermath of Labor Day, the latest voting intention poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that President Trump has made significant gains over his Democratic rival in the past month, erasing most of the momentum that Joe Biden built over the summer. Whereas Joe Biden continues to hold commanding leads over Donald Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin, the Democratic candidate’s lead in Arizona and Florida is now barely past the margin of error, despite having almost reached double digits in the summer. In North Carolina, the incumbent President leads by a slim margin, and in Pennsylvania, Donald Trump has halved Biden’s lead.
In Michigan, Joe Biden currently holds an eleven-point lead over Donald Trump, which represents a slight decline from Joe Biden’s twelve-point lead in July and August, but nonetheless represents a commanding lead over Donald Trump. Part of the reason for Joe Biden’s success in the polls in Michigan is that twice as many (52%) of those who did not vote at all in 2016 say they will vote this time for Joe Biden than for Donald Trump (26%). Our research has previously suggested that the high levels of approval for Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state could be one possible explanation for Donald Trump’s relatively lower popularity with the Michigan electorate.
The situation in Wisconsin is similar to Michigan: our poll finds that Joe Biden currently holds a nine-point lead over Donald Trump in Wisconsin, which is only slightly smaller than Joe Biden’s ten-point lead in July and August, and his eleven-point lead in June. All of these changes fall within the margin of error of the poll, and it is clear that Joe Biden’s lead in both Michigan and Wisconsin has remained stable for the duration of the summer. Similar to Michigan, our poll finds that 59% of Wisconsin respondents who did not vote in 2016 now plan to vote for Joe Biden. By comparison, only 28% of this sub-group say they will vote for Donald Trump.
Although Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers has earned high approval ratings for his handling of coronavirus in the state, our latest polling finds that his handling of recent race-related incidents in Kenosha has been unpopular. For now, events in Kenosha appear to have had only a slight effect, if any (given that the change is within the margin of error), on the Presidential voting intention of the Wisconsin electorate. Nevertheless, it is possible that in the coming weeks the topic of law and order will become increasingly important in Wisconsin, potentially allowing President Trump to make inroads with voters in the state.
Up until August, the situation in Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden was born and raised, was similar to Michigan and Wisconsin: Joe Biden held a ten-point lead over Donald Trump in June, followed by seven-point leads in July and August. Now, our poll from the first week of September finds Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by five points in Pennsylvania. Although this lead is still considerable, Joe Bidens’s lead in Pennsylvania has halved in June, suggesting that the Donald Trump campaign is having a degree of success in galvanizing Pennsylvania voters.
One possible explanation for Donald Trump’s success in narrowing Joe Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania could be the President’s targeted campaign against the stance of Kamala Harris, the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, towards fracking. Indeed, fracking is an important element of the Pennsylvania economy, and provides many well-paid jobs in areas of the state that have traditionally been less prosperous. Last month, when we asked respondents in the six swing states whether they would support or oppose a blanket ban on fracking, respondents in Pennsylvania expressed the highest level of opposition (33% opposed), compared to respondents in swing states such as Arizona (24% opposed), where fracking is of lower economic importance.
Even though Joe Biden’s lead in the three Midwestern swing states is strong (albeit not insurmountable, as the results from Pennsylvania show), it is a different story in the Sun Belt, where the race is extremely close. In Florida, Joe Biden’s lead has fallen from an eight-point lead in August to a three-point lead in September, which is barely outside the margin of error of our poll. This latest result represents a return to the figures we saw in May, when Joe Biden had a two-point lead over Donald Trump in Florida. As the summer comes to an end, it appears that Joe Biden has lost a large proportion of the voters in Florida he had gained over the summer months.
Our results in Arizona find a similar trend as in Florida: Joe Biden’s lead in Arizona has fallen from a nine-point lead in August to a five-point lead in September, which represents a return to the difference in the level of support for each candidate that we observed in May. Whereas Joe Biden was able to increase his lead over Donald Trump in Arizona from a four-point lead in May and June to an eight-point lead in July and a nine-point lead in August, Joe Biden’s summer momentum in Arizona also appears to be faltering now.
Of all six swing states, the race in North Carolina is the closest: Donald Trump currently holds a one-point lead over Joe Biden in North Carolina, which falls within the margin of error of this poll. Although in June it seemed like Joe Biden was successfully gaining ground in North Carolina and securing a six-point lead, Donald Trump was then able to reverse this trend, and the two candidates have been within the margin of error of each other for the past three months, with Donald Trump leading by 1% in this southern state.
Although North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has earned praise across the North Carolina political spectrum for his handling of the pandemic, his popularity has not translated into a commanding lead for Joe Biden in the same way that it appears to have done in Michigan and Wisconsin. Although the popularity of North Carolina’s Democratic Governor and his handling of coronavirus has not translated into a commanding lead for Joe Biden in the same way that it appears to have done in Michigan and Wisconsin. Nevertheless, North Carolina traditionally leans Republican, whereas Michigan and Wisconsin traditionally lean towards the Democrats. As a result, it is possible that the Presidential race in North Carolina appears competitive not despite Cooper’s high approval ratings, but because of them, and that Donald Trump’s leads would be even greater otherwise.
As in previous polls, likely Donald Trump voters in the six swing states remain more enthusiastic about voting for him than likely Joe Biden voters feel about voting for Joe Biden. Our poll finds that 59-70% of likely Donald Trump voters in the six swing states say they feel “very enthusiastic” about voting for him, with the highest proportion being in Florida (70%) and the lowest in North Carolina (59%). Meanwhile, 45-52% of likely Joe Biden voters across the six swing states feel “very enthusiastic” about voting for the Democratic candidate, with the highest proportion being in Michigan (52%) and the lowest in Pennsylvania (45%).
The level of enthusiasm among the likely voters of each candidate across the six swing states is broadly reflective of the findings of our latest national poll, where 64% of likely Donald Trump voters and 52% of likely Joe Biden voters say they feel “very enthusiastic” about voting for their candidate.
Across all six swing states, more than three-quarters of likely Donald Trump voters continue to say they are voting for Donald Trump primarily because they support him, rather than because they oppose Joe Biden. On the other hand, the picture is more complex among likely Joe Biden voters: in four of the states, slight majorities (51-58%) of likely Joe Biden voters say they will vote for him primarily because they support Joe Biden, rather than because they oppose Donald Trump. On the other hand, likely Joe Biden voters in Florida are evenly divided, with 50% saying they are voting for Joe Biden primarily because they support him, and the other 50% doing so primarily because they oppose Donald Trump. Wisconsin is an outlier, with 60% of likely Joe Biden voters saying the primary reason they will vote for him is that they oppose Donald Trump.
At the national level, our latest poll found that 78% of likely Donald Trump voters and 53% of likely Joe Biden voters intend to vote that way primarily because they support their candidate, rather than because they oppose their rival.
Overall, our latest results show that Donald Trump has gained support since the summer months, when the President trailed Joe Biden by a significant margin in all six swing states. Not only are Donald Trump and Joe Biden now virtually tied in North Carolina (despite Joe Biden having a six-point lead there in June), but Donald Trump has also managed to halve Joe Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania from ten points to five points. Similarly, in Arizona and Florida, Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump is now barely above the margin of error of the poll, despite having nearly reached double digits in August. It is only in Michigan and Wisconsin that Joe Biden continues to have a commanding lead over Donald Trump, but, even then, it may be slowly eroding, with Joe Biden’s lead in Michigan falling from twelve to nine points over the course of the past month.
 Data were weighted to the profile of adults (18+) in each respective state. Data were weighted by age, gender, region, ethnicity/race, education level and 2016 Presidential Election Vote. Targets for each weighting were derived from the official estimates of the United States Census and the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. To see our methodology in greater detail, please download our full results.