2020 Vision Polling Tuesday #1: Trump Trails Behind in Six Key Election States


Nicole Markus and Bella Martin

Welcome to Polling Tuesday, a weekly update from the 2020 Vision Election Blog. The election is exactly three weeks away, and the polls that indicate which presidential candidate is ahead change daily. Here, we’ll take a look at the polls and what they mean every Tuesday before the election.

Let’s Recap

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination and selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in August, slightly before the Democratic nomination. President Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and once again selected current Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate. The two presidential candidates faced off in one debate before the president contracted COVID-19 and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) cancelled the second one after President Trump declined to participate in a virtual debate. The CPD has yet to release information regarding any other potential presidential debates. The two vice presidential candidates also held a debate last week, the only one they had scheduled before the Nov. 3 election. 

The Numbers, Nationally

The election remains highly contested so far. According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden holds the lead in all six of the national polls added on Monday, Oct. 12, polling anywhere from 51%-54%. Trump currently polls in the low 40% range. These numbers give Biden the (current) lead in the race for the White House, putting Trump and his campaign team at a disadvantage. Biden currently polls better than any challenger has since 1936, giving him a clear look at a January inauguration if polls fail to change before the election. But these numbers do not tell the whole story. 

A Little Background

Polling around 10 points higher at this stage in the election by no means indicates the winner of the race. In 2016, at the three week mark from the election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the polls by 9%, a number extremely similar to Biden’s current lead. Granted, these polls existed in a different context, since neither candidate held incumbent status going into the election, but it is still important to note that just because Biden leads the polls at this moment, these polls do not necessarily ensure the eventual election outcome.

The Key

Most U.S. states have a clear voting pattern, Democratic or Republican. But there are a select number that swing between parties in elections. These states, the most recognized being Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, often determine the outcome of the election. Florida and Ohio in particular play an integral role in  determining the election. No Republican president has won the election without winning Florida in 96 years; similarly, no Republican president has won the election without winning Ohio, ever. Recent polls in The Guardian show Biden up in six of the eight (spare only Iowa and Ohio) listed battleground states, including Florida. If Trump does not catch up in these states, it will remain nearly impossible for him to secure the necessary 270 Electoral College votes to win the election.

‘Till Next Week

Polls often change, and rapidly. Check in next Tuesday to see how the two presidential candidates fare in this week’s polls.