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Biden holds small lead over Trump nationally but sees bigger edge in key US counties

A new Monmouth University poll shows presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holding a negligible lead over President Donald Trump in this fall’s 2020 election. However, the poll also shows Biden with a solid lead over Trump in key swing counties across the U.S.

“The race looks tight right now between Trump and the probable Democratic nominee,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But as we learned in 2016, the outcome will be determined by the Electoral College rather than the national popular vote. The poll results suggest Biden may actually be starting out with an advantage in crucial swing areas of the country.” 

Biden, according to the poll, has the support of 48% of registered voters, compared to Trump’s 45% if the election was today. Another 3% say they would vote for an independent candidate and 4% are undecided.

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Biden has an 89% to 6% advantage over Trump among Democratic voters, while Trump has a similar 90% to 7% lead among Republicans. Independents split 45% for Trump and 44% for Biden. 

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In the nearly 2,500 “red” counties that Trump won by an average of 36 points in 2016, his current standing for this year’s election is similar at 63% who support him and 32% who support Biden. 

In the 360 “blue” counties that Hillary Clinton won by about 35 points on average, 60% of voters support Biden and 30% back Trump. 

In approximately 300 “swing” counties where the margin of victory was less than 10 points for either candidate – accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. electorate – 50% back Biden compared with 41% who support Trump. 

In 2016, Clinton won the cumulative vote in these counties by a single percentage point. 

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 The poll also finds Biden has a 56% to 34% advantage over Trump among voters under 35 years old. Trump has a 53% to 40% lead among voters aged 35 to 54, while Biden has a small edge of 50% to 46% among voters aged 55 and older. 

Other key demographic groups break along typical partisan lines. Biden has overwhelming support among women of color (77% to 14%), strong support among white women with a college degree (63% to 33%), and sizable support among men of color (53% to 39%). 

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Trump holds strong leads among white women without a college degree (66% to 29%) and white men without a college degree (58% to 34%). He has a smaller edge among white men who are college graduates (51% to 44%).

Both candidates have seen improvements in their personal ratings over the past month. For Biden, the shift in favorability has come mainly from Democrats, as he went from the back of the primary pack to the probable nominee.

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The poll also asked about voters’ finances. Most (62%) say their current financial situation is stable, while 25% say they are struggling and just 12% say their situation is improving. 

Compared to a year ago, more voters say their situation is either stable (55% in April 2019) or struggling (20% in 2019), while fewer say it is improving (24% in 2019). Just over half of the electorate (52%) currently says federal actions over the last three years have had no impact on their financial situation. Another 29% say the federal government actions have helped them and 18% say those actions have hurt them financially. 

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“The coronavirus situation is just starting to hit American family finances. It will be important to track these trends and the impact they might have on the 2020 presidential contest,” said Murray. 

The poll was conducted by telephone from March 18-22, 2020, with 851 adults in the United States. The results in this release are based on 754 registered voters and have a +/- 3.6 percentage point sampling margin of error. 

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