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Monmouth Poll Shows Presidential Race Neck and Neck

Joe Biden holds a negligible 3 point lead over Donald Trump in the race for president, according to a national Monmouth University Poll. The probable Democratic nominee has a larger edge, though, among voters in key swing counties across the country. The poll also finds that fewer voters say their financial situation is improving compared to a year ago, although most say it is stable for now.

Biden has the support of 48% of registered voters and Trump has the support of 45% if the presidential election was today. Another 3% say they would vote for an independent candidate and 4% are undecided. Biden has an 89% to 6% advantage over Trump among Democratic voters, while Trump has a similar 90% to 7% lead among Republicans. Independents split 45% for Trump and 44% for Biden.

“The race looks tight right now between Trump and the probable Democratic nominee. But as we learned in 2016, the outcome will be determined by the Electoral College rather than the national popular vote. The poll results suggest Biden may actually be starting out with an advantage in crucial swing areas of the country,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

In the nearly 2,500 “red” counties that Trump won by an average of 36 points in 2016, his current standing for this year’s election is similar at 63% who support him and 32% who support Biden. In the 360 “blue” counties that Hillary Clinton won by about 35 points on average, 60% of voters support Biden and 30% back Trump.  In approximately 300 “swing” counties where the margin of victory was less than ten points for either candidate – accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. electorate – 50% back Biden compared with 41% who support Trump. In 2016, Clinton won the cumulative vote in these counties by a single percentage point.

The poll also finds that Biden has a substantial 56% to 34% advantage over Trump among voters under 35 years old.  Trump has a 53% to 40% lead among voters aged 35 to 54, while Biden has a small edge of 50% to 46% among voters aged 55 and older. Other key demographic groups break along typical partisan lines.  Biden has overwhelming support among women of color (77% to 14%), strong support among white women with a college degree (63% to 33%), and sizable support among men of color (53% to 39%).  Trump holds strong leads among white women without a college degree (66% to 29%) and white men without a college degree (58% to 34%). He has a smaller edge among white men who are college graduates (51% to 44%).

Both candidates have seen improvements in their personal ratings over the past month. Biden currently has a split 43% favorable to 43% unfavorable rating among voters, which is up from his 40% to 53% rating in February. Trump registers a slightly negative 46% favorable to 49% unfavorable opinion, but that is better than his 44% to 53% rating last month. For Biden, the shift in favorability has come mainly from Democrats, as he went from the back of the primary pack to the probable nominee. He currently has an 80% favorable to 11% unfavorable rating among Democratic voters, which is up from 69% to 23% last month. Trump’s improvement has come mainly from independents – now at 45% favorable to 47% unfavorable with this group, up from 42% to 55% in February.

The Monmouth University Poll also asked about voters’ finances. Most (62%) say their current financial situation is stable, while 25% say they are struggling and just 12% say their situation is improving. Compared to a year ago, more voters say their situation is either stable (55% in April 2019) or struggling (20% in 2019), while fewer say it is improving (24% in 2019). Just over half of the electorate (52%) currently says that federal actions over the last three years have had no impact on their financial situation. Another 29% say the federal government actions have helped them and 18% say those actions have hurt them financially.

“The coronavirus situation is just starting to hit American family finances. It will be important to track these trends and the impact they might have on the 2020 presidential contest,” said Murray.

Voters are split on whether Trump is giving enough attention to the issues that are most important to them (47%) or if he should be giving those issues more attention (48%). This is a slight improvement for the president from last summer (42% giving enough attention to 54% wish he would give more attention in June 2019).

The poll also finds that nearly two-thirds of American voters say they are either very (34%) or somewhat (31%) optimistic about the 2020 presidential election. These results are basically unchanged from last month (35% very and 30% somewhat optimistic).  Thirty percent say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year compared to past elections, 17% are less enthusiastic, and 52% feel the same level of enthusiasm. This is a slight shift from February, when 39% felt more enthusiastic, 21% less enthusiastic, and 40% the same. The dip in feeling more enthusiastic has come mainly from Republicans (36%, down from 47%) and independents (21%, down from 34%). On the other hand, fewer Democrats feel less enthusiastic about November’s election now (18%) than said the same last month (30%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from March 18 to 22, 2020 with 851 adults in the United States. The results in this release are based on 754 registered voters and have a +/- 3.6 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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