Donald Trump cuts Joe Biden’s lead in key battleground states, exclusive polling reveals


Results will cheer president’s campaign team after previous surveys has shown him trailing by a huge margin

Donald Trump has slashed Joe Biden’s lead in some of the key battleground states which will likely determine who wins the US election, according to new polling for The Telegraph. 

The US president saw the percentage of people who say they will vote for him in six swing states rise between July and early September, according to the survey results. 

The results will be cheered in the Trump campaign given the president has trailed by a huge margin over the summer as coronavirus cases surged in America. 

For months Redfield & Wilton Strategies has been tracking opinion for this newspaper in the six states Mr Trump won by the narrowest margins in 2016: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The last polling in mid-July showed Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, clearly in the lead in all six states. The latest surveys, conducted in late August and early September after the party conventions, have that lead narrowing. 

Mr Trump is now ahead in North Carolina by one percentage point, according to the polling. He has also roughly halved Mr Biden’s lead in Florida. Mr Biden still leads in Pennsylvania and Arizona and is far ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin. 

The numbers are still good for the Biden camp. If they were replicated at the election on November 3 he would likely win, stopping Mr Trump from getting the second term. 

But the movement of the last six weeks is working in the Trump campaign’s favour. They will hope to continue the trend over the two months remaining until polling day. 

The reason for the narrowing gap is debatable. One possible cause is the decline in daily coronavirus cases seen in America since mid-July. 

A majority of the public have consistently disapproved of how the US president has handled the Covid-19 pandemic, according to polls. 

A falling away of cases could lead some Americans to see the crisis as less urgent and so Mr Trump’s performance as less top of mind as they cast their vote. 

The change could also reflect the conventions. The polls were taken right after the Republican convention, meaning the messages pushed by the party and its dominance in TV coverage over the preceding week could be reflected in voter thinking. 

But polling experts and pundits have noted how neither party got the post-convention bounce that has tended to be seen in the past, perhaps because the views of so many voters about the two candidates are locked in already. 

The polling shows Mr Biden is three percentage points ahead in Florida, five points ahead in Arizona and Pennsylvania, nine points ahead in Wisconsin and 11 points ahead in Michigan. Mr Trump is one point ahead in North Carolina.

Polls, it should be remembered, are a snapshot of voter thinking at a moment in time rather than a prediction of the final result. Between 600 and 1,000 people were polled in each of the six states.

There are other insights in the polling into the thinking of the electorate in the battleground states that helps explain the state of the race and where the key clashes are between the candidates. 

Despite being in charge during the historic economic slump that was triggered by the coronavirus lockdown Mr Trump is still better rated on the economy than Mr Biden. 

The position reflects Mr Trump’s perceived strengths as a property mogul and celebrity businessman who oversaw booming growth during three years of his presidency compared to Mr Biden, a former vice president who has spent five decades in Washington politics. 

It is a political weakness the Biden campaign will seek to address in the coming weeks, especially given that if coronavirus case numbers begin to fall voters may increasingly think about who is best placed to lead the economic recovery.  

When voters were asked which policy area would most likely determine how they would vote, the highest ranking area in all six states was the economy – an indication of how voters have their wallets in mind. The second area was healthcare. 

One Trump campaign move that appears to have had mixed results is its attacks on the Democratic nominee’s mental acuity.

Voters in the six states were largely split on whether Mr Trump or Mr Biden was “is in good physical and mental health”, suggesting the issue is not the slam dunk the president would like. 

Other results reinforce the continued impact of the pandemic on Americans. Around a third of voters in the battleground states say they do not feel comfortable voting in person at the polling booths, fuelling expectations that a historic number of postal votes will be cast. 

That could have untold knock-on impacts for the race, with little evidence on how big postal votes nationwide could change the shape of the electorate. It could also put new pressure on election officials and the vote counting process. 

Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed, with little evidence, that postal voting is wide open to fraud and argued that a big number of mail-in votes would amount to a “rigged election”. The row looks set to continue all the way to polling day and possibly beyond. 

Voters in all six states were asked “in your opinion, if Joe Biden had been president, do you think he would have handled the coronavirus pandemic better, worse, or with no difference”. In all six states the most common answer was “better”. 

The answer helps explain why the Biden camp is trying to frame the election as one where the all important question is who is best placed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But the poll results also contain another warning sign for Mr Biden – that if the race becomes defined by issues of law and order, many voters support the types of views which Mr Trump has been voicing. 

A majority of voters in all six states agreed with the statements “the destruction of property is violence” and “the vast majority of police officers are good, but a few bad apples give them a bad reputation”. They also disagreed with calls to “defund the police”.

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