Monday, 30 Nov 2020

Countdown to US presidential vote: Biden maintains grip in opinion polls

SINGAPORE – Democratic candidate Joe Biden has maintained his wide lead nationwide in opinion polls over President Donald Trump, including in most battleground states, with just two weeks to go before the United States presidential election.

Polls conducted by The Financial Times and the New York Times (NYT) also suggest that likely voters are losing faith in the President’s handling of the US economy and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figures on polling data aggregator Real Clear Politics on Tuesday (Oct 20) showed Mr Trump trailing behind Mr Biden 42.5 per cent to 51.1 per cent. Both the NBC News/Wall Street Journal and the Fox News October polls showed a similar trend, with the President trailing Mr Biden 42 per cent to 53 per cent and 43 per cent to 53 per cent, respectively.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey published on Oct 14 also found Mr Biden to be leading Mr Trump by 10 percentage points. And 51 per cent of sampled voters an Oct 11-13 poll by The Economist magazine and Britain-based YouGov favoured Mr Biden over Mr Trump who got 41 per cent. The NYT/Siena College poll published on Tuesday showed Mr Biden holding a nine-point lead over Mr Trump.

Statistics in the battleground states are particularly worrying for Mr Trump who prevailed in many of them in 2016. And in those where he did not, his Democratic opponent then, Mrs Hillary Clinton, won by only a narrow margin.

Of the 14 battleground states, 10 voted for Mr Trump in 2016. But recent polls suggest that he is ahead in only two, Texas and Ohio, and he is only marginally ahead in the latter.

States like Iowa and Georgia, where Mr Trump won by 6 per cent to 9 per cent over Mrs Clinton, are now leaning towards Mr Biden, according to polling data aggregator Real Clear Politics.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, which voted for Mr Trump in 2016, likely voters are swaying towards Mr Biden by six to seven percentage points.

Data on Real Clear Politics has shown Mr Biden to be ahead of Mr Trump in most national polls since early this year, with up to a 10-point lead on some occasions.

Covid-19 and the economy seem to be the two most important issues for voters and, in what surely spells trouble for the President, many of them seem to be losing faith in his handling of the two issues.

A monthly survey by The Financial Times/Peter G Peterson Foundation this month found that 46 per cent of Americans believe Mr Trump’s policies are hurting the economy, compared to 44 per cent who think they have helped.

In March, the same poll showed 11 per cent more Americans had a positive perception of his economic policies than negative. The October poll also suggested that only a third of Americans thought they were financially better off compared with four years ago when Mr Trump assumed office.

More than half of the respondents (55 per cent) in the NYT/Siena College poll, conducted between Oct 15 and 18, said the country as a whole was doing worse than in 2016. The respondents were evenly split on whether they had more trust in Mr Trump or Mr Biden to manage the economy.

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On the Covid-19 pandemic, only one in five Americans were confident that the situation would improve in their community within the next month, according to the FT/Peterson survey.

Similarly, the NYT/Siena poll showed a majority of voters (51 per cent) though the worst is yet to come and just 37 per cent of those sampled believed otherwise.

Mr Biden is favoured over Mr Trump to lead on the pandemic by 12 points, according the the NYT/Siena survey. In the same survey, the majority of respondents supported mandatory mask wearing, 59 per cent to 39 per cent overall, with more than two-thirds of voters above 65 (68 per cent) backing such a mandate.

But only 32 per cent of respondents supported mandatory vaccination after a vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug administration. Almost two-thirds opposed such a requirement.

The same NYT/Siena poll also showed seven in 10 voters, more than half of whom were Republicans, favouring a new multi-trillion-dollar stimulus programme that includes government support for Americans and emergency help at the state and district level.

More than two-thirds of those sampled in the survey also supported the US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) renewable energy and infrastructure package that Mr Biden has proposed as a form of economic stimulus.

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But it has not all dismal news for Mr Trump on the polls front, as he is ahead in some segments, most notably among white voters without college degrees. They continue to favour him over Mr Biden by 23 percentage points.

But his advantage among them has shrunk from 2016, when they preferred him over Mrs Clinton by 37 points. In general, a majority of white voters and male Americans preferred Mr Trump over Mr Biden while about two-thirds of non-white Americans favoured Mr Biden.

Among women, minorities and educated whites, Mr Biden is the preferred candidate. The NYT/Siena poll showed the former vice-president ahead of Mr Trump among female voters by 23 points or 58 per cent to 35 per cent. In 2016, Mrs Clinton was ahead of Mr Trump only among white women, 52 per cent to 43 per cent.

Things may be looking up for Mr Biden at the moment but based on historical trends, the opinion polls are by no means an accurate indicator of the final result.

In 2016, Mrs Clinton led in the polls up to Election Day and eventually got nearly three million more votes than Mr Trump, but still lost in the election because Mr Trump won the stakes in the all-important Electoral College which is decided on a state-by-state basis.

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