Latest USA Swing State Senate and Governor Voting Intention
(30 August to 4 September)

September 9, 2020
Approval Rating | Swing States | Voting Intention
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Despite our latest polling finding that Donald Trump has managed to neutralise Joe Biden’s summer momentum in a number of key swing states, this reversal does not appear to be trickling down the ballot. In Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina, the Democratic candidates to the US Senate continue to hold double digit leads over the Republican candidates, and North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper continues to look set for re-election.

In Michigan, incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters now has a twelve-point lead over Republican candidate John James, which represents a three-point increase in his lead since our last poll in August. This change is despite the fact that Biden’s lead over Trump in Michigan decreased by three points in the same period. At this moment, our poll finds that 50% intend to vote for the incumbent Democratic Senator, compared to 38% who intend to vote for his Republican rival.[1]

Peters’ twelve-point lead is broadly reflective of Biden’s nine-point lead in Michigan, and of the high approval ratings of Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Indeed, our poll found that 58% approve and 29% disapprove of Governor Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in Michigan. Whitmer’s high level of approval partly derives from the 21% of likely Trump voters who approve of her handling of the pandemic at the state level.

In North Carolina, meanwhile, incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis currently trails his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by ten points despite having the advantage of being an incumbent. Compared to last month, Cunningham’s lead over Tillis has increased by one point, but this change falls within the margin of error of the poll. However, it is remarkable that the incumbent Republican Senator is ten points behind in the polls even though Donald Trump is currently ahead of Joe Biden in North Carolina.

One possible explanation for Senator Tillis’ poor polling in comparison to President Trump’s numbers in North Carolina could be the popularity of Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic Governor. Similar to Governor Whitmer in Michigan, our latest poll finds that 51% of North Carolina respondents approve and 28% disapprove of Governor Cooper’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in the state. This figure includes a staggering 28% of likely Trump voters who approve of how their Democratic Governor has handled the pandemic.

Cooper’s high approval ratings for his handling of the crisis continue to translate into a strong nineteen-point lead over Republican candidate Dan Forest in Cooper’s race to be re-elected as Governor of North Carolina. This latest result represents a six-point increase in Cooper’s lead from his thirteen-point lead in our previous poll in August. Once again, Cooper’s nineteen-point lead is particularly impressive when contrasted to how Trump and Biden are virtually tied in North Carolina.

The only swing state where Trump’s post-summer bounce appears to be trickling down the ballot slightly is Arizona, where incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally now trails Democratic candidate Mark Kelly by fifteen points, compared to seventeen points in August. Nonetheless, this two-point reduction in Kelly’s lead falls within the margin of error of the poll, and the Democratic candidate’s fifteen-point lead is nonetheless considerably strong. Thus, it appears that Arizona is yet another swing state in which Trump’s slight recovery in our latest poll is not having a corresponding effect on other races in the state.

As in other states, one possible explanation for McSally’s unpopularity would be the perception of how Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey has handled the coronavirus crisis. Unlike the widely supported handling of the crisis by the Democratic Governors of Michigan and North Carolina, 29% approve and 47% disapprove of how Arizona’s Republican Governor has handled the coronavirus crisis.

With Election Day fast approaching, it appears that Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina are set to elect Democratic candidates to the U.S. Senate, and that North Carolina is likely to re-elect Governor Roy Cooper. However, with our latest results suggesting that Donald Trump is successfully quashing Biden’s summer momentum and recovering in the polls across some of the key swing states, it is possible that some of these Senate races might become more competitive over the coming weeks: Redfield & Wilton Strategies will continue to monitor any developments.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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[1] 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.

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