The presidential race in Pennsylvania is now almost neck-and-neck after both parties’ national conventions, according to a new poll, with President Donald Trump gaining ground on Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Biden leads Trump by four percentage points among registered Pennsylvania voters, 49% to 45%, a Monmouth University Polling Institute survey released Wednesday found. That’s down from a 13 percentage point advantage Biden held in Monmouth’s last Pennsylvania poll, in early July.
Among likely voters, the race is even closer.
Biden leads by one percentage point in a low voter turnout scenario, and by three in a high turnout model, Monmouth found. In July, Monmouth found Biden leading by seven in a low turnout scenario, and 10 if voter turnout were high.
It’s the first public survey of the state released after both parties pressed their cases to voters in nationally televised conventions in late August. And it comes as both parties have blanketed Pennsylvania this week: Biden delivered a major speech Monday in Pittsburgh, Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, also campaigned in Bucks County that day, Vice President Mike Pence spoke Tuesday in Northeast Pennsylvania, and the president is expected Thursday in Southwest Pennsylvania.
Trump has made significant gains among men, voters under the age of 50, and a sliver of voters who seem open to his warnings that Democrats would bring ruin to the suburbs. Trump has also eaten into Biden’s lead among college-educated white voters.
“This is really a game of inches,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The Trump campaign is looking to peel off a little bit of Biden support here and a little bit there. It may be working, despite the fact that Pennsylvania voters personally like the Democrat more, although this gap has narrowed.”
Pennsylvania was decided by less than one percentage point in 2016, so small shifts in almost any region or demographic could make the difference this time.
Both parties have long said they expected the 2020 race to tighten in Pennsylvania, and the poll began the day after the Republican National Convention, which often provides a bump for the GOP nominee.
But the survey still shows a dramatic shift from Biden’s summertime highs and portends a brutal fight over the final two months of the campaign. Monmouth’s findings are roughly in line with recent polls by Muhlenberg College, which showed Biden leading by four among likely voters, and Change Research, which had Biden ahead by three with those voters. Franklin and Marshall College found a wider seven-point edge for Biden among registered voters in August.
Most interviews for the Monmouth survey were completed before Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, in which he spoke out forcefully against riots and looting, and argued that Trump is fanning divisions and making the country less safe.
The poll surveyed 400 Pennsylvania voters by telephone from Aug. 28 to 31. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, though with significantly larger margins of error for subgroups within it.
Trump gains with men, and more voters of color are unsure
Biden leads big among women, 59% to 35%, but Trump has widened his advantage with men, according to the Monmouth poll. Men back the president 56% to 37%, up from a two-point edge in July.
Among voters under age 50, Biden leads 49% to 40%, down from 60% to 29%.
White, college-educated voters, who have largely rejected Trump and the GOP in recent elections, support Biden by 18 percentage points, but that’s down from 27 points in July.
And among Pennsylvania voters of color, Biden still has an overwhelming majority — 72% — but now 9% say they are undecided, compared with just 3% in July.
“The Republican convention attempted to sow some seeds of doubt among core Democratic blocs, especially young and urban voters,” Murray said. “It looks like they may have had a small amount of success with that, at least for now.”
The sample sizes for many of the subgroups were relatively small, leaving large margins of potential error, including 8% among Democrats, and 7% among men.
In 10 swing counties where the results were close in 2016, Trump leads 46% to 44%, a stark shift from Biden’s 54% to 35% lead in July. (Those counties are Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Dauphin, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton).
The suburbs, race relations, and the coronavirus
Overall, few voters seem to believe Trump’s repeated warnings that Democrats would bring crime and lower property values to suburban enclaves, a message laced with racist undertones.
Asked about “different people moving into nice neighborhoods who may bring in crime and lower property values,” 12% saw that as a “major problem” and 52% said it was “not a problem.”
Only 24% of Democrats said they were concerned about this happening in their community. But of those, roughly one out of six said they will vote for Trump, Murray said. “Now, this group represents a fairly small proportion of the total electorate, but it is still large enough to make a difference in a very close election,” he said.
On the larger issue of race relations, however, 53% of Pennsylvania voters had a great deal or some confidence in Biden to handle the issue, compared with 42% who said the same about Trump.
Trump is also still struggling with voters on the coronavirus, the poll found: 45% of registered voters say he has done a good job, compared with 53% who say he has done poorly, similar to in July.
Biden now has a 48% favorable to 46% unfavorable rating, a net four-point improvement from July. Some 44% of Pennsylvania voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 51% see him unfavorably. But that net approval rating of negative-7 compares to negative-14 in July.