Biden still ahead in the polls, but Trump narrows gap after RNC

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Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden discusses his plan to safely reopen schools amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, September 2, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Joe Biden is still beating President Donald Trump in most general election polls – but averages of recent surveys show signs that the Democratic nominee’s lead is narrowing slightly following the parties’ national conventions.

A shift in the wake of the nominating conventions is hardly unprecedented, and most national polls indicate no dramatic bump for Trump since the start of the Republican National Convention. But some recent surveys still indicate an uptick in approval for the incumbent, and some swing-state polls show a larger change in Trump’s favor.

As of Wednesday, the polling averages show some movement toward the president:

  • FiveThirtyEight’s polling tracker has Biden ahead of Trump by 7.5 percentage points. Biden led Trump by more than 9 points in the tracker on the eve of the RNC kickoff on Aug. 24.
  • RealClearPolitics’ polling average gives Biden the same 7.5-point advantage over Trump, 49.7%-42.2%. That gap has shrunk from the more than 10-point lead Biden held over the president in late June, though the latest figure falls roughly in line with Trump’s average polling deficit throughout August. RCP’s average showed Biden had a 7.8-point lead over Trump at the start of the GOP convention.
  • RCP gives Biden an overall spread of 2.5 points over the president in a selection of swing states. That’s down from a 3.8-point gap at the start of the RNC.

Those results come amid redoubled efforts by the Trump and Biden campaigns to pummel each other over a series of crises that have roiled the U.S. political landscape for much of the year and continue to weigh heavily on Americans’ minds.

In recent weeks, the presidential contenders have clashed over who bears the blame for violence that has broken out at protests against police brutality and systemic racism in cities across the country.

Trump has sought to frame himself as the “law and order” candidate, repeatedly blaming Democrats for the unrest caused by “radical-left anarchists” and groups such as Antifa. The RNC made the tumultuous protests a key feature of its programming, though the president this week declined to condemn pro-Trump demonstrators when given the opportunity.

While the Democratic National Convention did not focus on the unrest, Biden since accepting the nomination has condemned the violence and ripped Trump for failing to keep the peace. “The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America. So now, he’s trying to scare America,” Biden said in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Biden has also continued to assail Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 184,600 people in the U.S. and threatens the livelihoods of millions of others. A large majority of registered voters remain concerned about the pandemic, and nearly 60% say Trump is at least partly responsible for the high number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday.

Trump has pushed state leaders to relax their social distancing restrictions, which were put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19 but have wrought havoc on the economy.

Polls on average show more Americans approve than disapprove of Trump’s job on the economy – though that gap has narrowed significantly from earlier in the year, according to RealClearPolitics. 

Overall, Reuters’ online poll of 1,335 American adults, conducted Monday and Tuesday, found Biden’s 7-point lead over Trump – 47% to 40% – to be largely unchanged since before the late-August conventions. The poll has a credibility interval of 3 to 5 percentage points.

Another poll out Wednesday from Grinnell College and Selzer & Co. gave Biden a 49%-41% advantage over Trump. That poll, conducted last Wednesday through Sunday, is based on phone interviews with 827 likely voters and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

But at least one other national poll released Wednesday found Trump cutting into Biden’s lead.

USA Today/Suffolk University‘s latest gave Biden a 7-point gap over Trump at 50%-43%, respectively. That’s down from the pollster’s June survey, which gave the Democratic challenger a 12-point advantage over the president. The survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted by phone from Friday through Monday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Biden continues to fend off Trump in the all-important battleground states – but that gap is narrowing, polls show.

RealClearPolitics gives Biden an overall spread of 2.5 points over the president in an average of state-specific polls in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. That gap shrunk from 3.8 points at the start of the RNC.

One poll released Wednesday also showed a significant shift toward the incumbent in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state that Trump won in 2016 over then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The latest survey from Monmouth University gives Biden a 4-point lead over Trump among all registered voters in Pennsylvania, 49%-45%. That’s within the survey’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, and significantly tighter than the university’s prior poll in July, which had Biden up 13 points in the Keystone State. The new poll of 400 Pennsylvania registered voters was conducted by phone between Friday and Monday.

Democrats are anxious to avoid a repeat of the defeat in 2016, when Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to Trump in a series of upsets in key swing states.

“This is really a game of inches. The Trump campaign is looking to peel off a little bit of Biden support here and a little bit there,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a press release. “It may be working, despite the fact that Pennsylvania voters personally like the Democrat more, although this gap has narrowed.”

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