The U.S. presidential race is much closer than national surveys suggest, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls in battleground states that show Democrat Joe Biden with only a slim lead over President Donald Trump in three highly competitive states and in a dead heat in three others.
The online state polls, conducted earlier in September and released this week, found Biden and Trump tied among likely voters in Florida and North Carolina. Biden led by 1 percentage point in Arizona, 3 points in Pennsylvania and 5 points in Wisconsin and Michigan.
All six are critical to determining who wins the Nov. 3 election, given their population size and potential to swing to either party. In each of the states, the difference between the two candidates was near or within the poll’s sampling error, meaning that neither candidate has a clear advantage.
Nationally, the latest Reuters/Ipsos conducted on Monday and Tuesday put Biden’s lead over Trump at 8 percentage points among all likely voters.
Taken together, the state and national surveys show the 2020 election may wind up with the same mixed result as 2016, with the Democrats receiving a majority of the votes but the Republicans winning the Electoral College and the White House.
While Biden has an early advantage in winning the national popular vote, Trump has nearly the same chances of winning the battleground states, and with them enough electoral votes for a second term.
The polls also found some important shifts in opinion this year within the U.S. electorate.
Biden, who emerged from a diverse field of Democratic presidential contenders on the promise that he was the most electable candidate, has been chipping away at Trump’s dominance over one of the largest voter blocs in America: whites without a college degree.
Trump does not appear to have been penalized by swing-state voters as much as he has been nationally for his response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Swing-state voters are also more likely to see Trump as better than Biden at managing the U.S. economy.