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Poll: In Pennsylvania, Joe Biden has a big lead on Democrats — and on Trump

The poll of one of the key 2020 battlegrounds suggests that Joe Biden is strong across a variety of demographics, and offers a warning sign for President Donald Trump.

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Community Oven restaurant in Hampton, N.H. Monday.
Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Community Oven restaurant in Hampton, N.H. Monday.Read moreMichael Dwyer / AP

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has a substantial early lead over his Democratic rivals in Pennsylvania, and a double-digit edge over President Donald Trump in the critical swing state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The poll of the 2020 battleground suggests the former vice president has strength among voters of different age groups, political leanings, and racial demographics, and offers a warning sign for Trump. The president was also trailing or tied in hypothetical matchups with other top Democratic contenders, though the poll comes with the campaign still in its early phases.

“More than half of Pennsylvania voters say they are better off financially than they were in 2016. But the economy isn’t giving President Donald Trump an edge in an early read of the very key Keystone State,” said Mary Snow, a Quinnipiac polling analyst.

Here are some key findings:

Biden leads big among Dems

The Scranton-born Biden has stressed his ties to Pennsylvania, and his ability to win there; this poll suggests he is off to a good start.

Biden, who also leads national polls, has support from 39 percent of registered Pennsylvania Democrats, the poll found, tripling the 13 percent who back his closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).

The results among other top Democrats were:

  1. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 8 percent

  2. California Sen. Kamala Harris, 8 percent

  3. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 6 percent

  4. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 5 percent

  5. Beto O’Rourke, 2 percent

Electability is key

One reason Biden leads by so much? Democratic voters have frequently emphasized that winning is the most important thing on their minds, and the vast majority see Biden as strong against Trump.

Asked who has the best chance to beat Trump, 61 percent of Democrats picked Biden. Sanders came in second, with 6 percent. An additional 21 percent said they didn’t know.

“Democrats of all stripes in Pennsylvania agree: Whether they back Biden or not, more than 60 percent believe he has the best chance of defeating Trump in 2020,” Snow said.

Biden’s support crosses lines of age, ideology

Biden led among virtually every slice of the Democratic coalition, even younger and more liberal voters thought to be a potential weakness for him and a strength for Sanders.

Among Democrats who consider themselves “very liberal,” 24 percent supported Biden, 23 percent backed Sanders, and 17 percent chose Warren, who held a campaign event in Philadelphia on Monday.

For those aged 18 to 49, Biden led with 29 percent, compared with 27 percent for Sanders.

Among Democrats aged 50 and older, Biden had 47 percent support, with Harris the second choice, at 11 percent. Sanders had 4 percent support in that age group.

Trump trails early

Trump trails Biden and Sanders by sizable margins in hypothetical matchups, while he is neck-and-neck with Harris, Warren, Buttigieg, and O’Rourke, Quinnipiac found.

  1. Sanders 50, Trump 43

  2. Warren 47, Trump 44

  3. Buttigieg 45, Trump 44

  4. Trump 45, Harris 45

  5. Trump 46, O’Rourke 44

The survey, though, comes before Trump has taken sustained aim at any of the candidates, and the president defied poll numbers to win the state, and the White House, in 2016. He is coming back to Pennsylvania on Monday for a rally near Williamsport, two days after Biden holds an event at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Trump strength: The economy

The biggest bright spot for Trump is Pennsylvanians’ views of the economy: 71 percent said it was “excellent” or “good,” topping the previous high of 45 percent in February 2015. Some 77 percent described their financial situations as “excellent” or “good.”

Yet many still disapprove of Trump, including 62 percent of women and 74 percent of nonwhite voters.

Overall, 42 percent of voters approve of the way Trump is doing his job, against 54 percent who disapprove.

The poll surveyed 978 Pennsylvania voters from May 9 to 14, and has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. Among the 431 registered Democrats surveyed, the margin of error is 6.2 percentage points.