MADISON, Wis. (CN) — New polling released Monday shows Democratic candidate Joe Biden expanding his lead over President Donald Trump in three crucial Midwest battleground states after winning over a bigger share of previously undecided voters.
The poll from the University of Wisconsin’s Elections Research Center, or ERC, shows Biden with a 53% to 44% lead over the president with likely voters in Wisconsin, compared to the 52% to 44% and 52% to 42% advantages Biden has in Pennsylvania and Michigan, respectively.
The numbers are up a couple of points for Biden in each of those states since the ERC’s September poll, particularly in Wisconsin where Biden has jumped 3 percentage points and Trump’s support has declined by 2 points, although all those changes are within the latest survey’s roughly 4-point margin of error.
According to a press release accompanying the poll’s release eight days ahead of the general election, “the difference in the final days is that a larger share of undecided and potential minor party voters has come to support Biden.”
Among voters who identified as independent, Monday’s poll shows the split in support stands at 47% for Biden and 45% for Trump, a reversal of the results from last month showing 47% support for Trump and 46% support for Biden.
Another key demographic that continues to swing in Biden’s favor is women, who favor the former vice president 58% to 38% over the incumbent, a disparity that has remained decidedly steady since summer.
Biden has a massive advantage among people who have already voted, according to the survey. This could prove highly consequential in states like Wisconsin, where more than 1.3 million voters have already cast their ballot, according to statistics published by the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday.
Among those who voted early, Biden enjoys advantages of 73% to 26% in Wisconsin, 75% to 23% in Michigan and a whopping 87% to 9% in Pennsylvania. Trump holds roughly 20-point leads among those who have not yet voted in each state, but those gaps pale next to the differences seen in early voting.
As analysis released with Monday’s poll puts it, “although Trump is favored by those who are yet to vote, the margin is not large enough to compensate for Biden’s advantage in the early vote.”
The ERC poll is part of a panel study, meaning many of the same respondents have been interviewed multiple times this year, which offers a look at just how stable voters’ choices have been over the last few months in spite of debates, national conventions and high-profile domestic events like the White House coronavirus outbreak and protests over racial injustice.
According to the survey – which is based on responses from 647 Wisconsin voters, 669 Pennsylvania voters and 681 Michigan voters – 99% of those who supported Biden in midsummer still stand with him, compared to 98% who still stand by the president.
One new issue that has arisen since September – the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – does not seem to be affecting voter choice, as only 3% of Biden voters and only 7% of Trump voters picked the issue as their top concern.
Fifty-one percent of Biden voters identified the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as their top issue with health care trailing at 15%, whereas 45% of Trump voters picked the economy as their chief issue with the coronavirus coming in at a distant 15%.
Monday’s poll also showed that Trump’s law and order message may be losing steam among his voters, as the focus on crime among the president’s supporters has fallen substantially from 24% in September to 10% this month.
Mordecai Lee, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who spent over a decade in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature as a Democrat, cautioned against reading the poll results as concrete evidence of Biden’s gains, saying that when it comes to polls the numbers are not as clear as they seem.
“In grade school they taught us that two is more than one and two is less than three, but in polls a number is a fuzzy number, an out-of-focus number,” Lee said.
The professor said one conclusion that could be surmised from the results is a confidence deficit between the two campaigns when it comes to Wisconsin.
Trump held a rally in Janesville on Oct. 17, one in Waukesha this past weekend and will have yet another campaign event in West Salem on Tuesday. Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris do not seem too concerned with matching the president’s presence in Wisconsin, which Lee believes indicates the longtime Delaware senator likes his chances in the Badger State, whereas “Trump believes he’s behind…but still thinks it’s winnable.”
“There is no math in recent polls that shows [Trump] getting an Electoral College victory without winning Wisconsin,” Lee offered, explaining that the president may have to “pull an inside straight” in the battleground the same way he did in 2016.
Despite the three states being solidly Democratic in presidential elections since the 1980s, Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by very narrow margins four years ago, including by just under 23,000 votes in the Badger State.Follow @cnsjkelly
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