Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, according to a new poll being released Thursday, with voters giving the Democratic nominee a seven-point lead.
The Franklin and Marshall College Poll, conducted from Aug. 17 to 23 while the Democratic National Convention was under way, showed Biden ahead of Trump among registered voters by 49% to 42%.
The election continues to be all about Trump. Six in 10 Biden supporters say their vote is more about opposing Trump than supporting Biden. Four in five of the president’s supporters say their vote is about Trump. That’s consistent with findings from a July F&M poll, which showed Biden with a nine-point lead.
Biden has held a sizable and consistent advantage in surveys of Pennsylvania voters this summer. There have been some signs of the race tightening in recent days. An average of Pennsylvania polls compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Biden with an advantage of 5.5 percentage points. Many of those polls sample “likely voters.” The F&M poll sampled 681 registered voters, 96% of whom said they were “certain to vote.”
Biden led Trump by just four points — 49% to 45% — in a Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released last week, within that survey’s margin of error.
Trump’s single advantage is still the economy, with 48% of voters in the new poll saying he is better prepared to handle it, compared with 44% who say the same of Biden.
On all other issues — including which candidate has the best judgment to handle the coronavirus, military matters, and domestic and foreign policy — Biden is well ahead of Trump.
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Asked who had the character and good judgment to be president, 52% chose Biden, while 33% went with Trump. Just 29% saw Trump as more honest and trustworthy than Biden, who was seen that way by 49%.
Pollster G. Terry Madonna said the survey played out along voter registration trends that have Democrats solidifying control in Philadelphia and the suburbs while Republicans are gaining just about everywhere else in the state.
“There’s a real strong animus among rank-and-file Democratic voters about Trump,” Madonna said.
The F&M poll sampled 321 Democrats, 272 Republicans, and 88 independents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2%.
Strong interest in the election, with a broad partisan split
Almost three out of four voters — 72% — said they were very interested in the election, a similar level of interest as seen in a poll at this time four years ago. That interest was consistent among Democratic and Republican voters.
Nine out 10 Democratic voters and 67% of independents say Trump is doing a fair or poor job as president, while 78% of Republicans approve of his performance.
Opinions on Biden are evenly split, with 48% holding a strongly or somewhat favorable view of him, and 49% holding a strongly or somewhat unfavorable view.
About two-thirds of the voters — 62% — expect to cast their ballots in person at polling places despite the pandemic.
“I was surprised by the number of people who said they were going to vote in person,” Madonna said.
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Coronavirus is the biggest concern, but the economy is also a worry
There was a 10-point drop in voters’ optimism about their personal finances, with just 23% reporting they are better off today than in January. Just 24% expect to be better off next year.
The coronavirus is the biggest concern for voters, with 31% putting it at the top of a list of issues that included unemployment, education, taxes, crime, health care, and the environment. That remains consistent with the F&M poll in July.
But there is some optimism. A majority of the voters in the poll — 52% — think Pennsylvania has managed the pandemic better than other states.
Here, too, the poll found a partisan split, with 73% of Democrats and 59% of independents looking favorably on the state’s performance, while just 26% of Republicans think Pennsylvania has done better than other states with the crisis.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who has been barraged by criticism from the Republican-controlled Assembly for his handling of the pandemic, received a favorable rating from 54% of the voters in the poll — again with Democrats and independents likely to approve and Republicans likely to disapprove of his performance.
“I think what’s going on here is, the pandemic in Pennsylvania is in decline,” Madonna said. “I think Gov. Wolf has been pretty effective in laying out his case that health comes first.”