MILWAUKEE (CN) — A poll released Wednesday shows Democratic candidate Joe Biden with a huge 17-point lead over President Donald Trump in Wisconsin and a smaller 7-point advantage in Michigan.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll gives Biden a 57% to 40% lead among likely voters in Wisconsin, a healthy uptick in support for the former vice president compared to a previous poll the same outlets released in September showing Biden with a 52%-46% lead.
Trump is a lot closer to Biden in Michigan, however, where the poll shows a slimmer 51% to 44% margin among likely voters.
Wednesday’s poll results are in keeping with some other recent surveys, including one from the University of Wisconsin’s Elections Research Center released on Monday, which shows Biden expanding his lead in the region.
Big or small, any increase in Biden’s lead in either Midwest battleground is welcome news for his campaign, considering Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes and Michigan’s 16 are seen by both camps as key linchpins to victory in the race for the White House.
The president narrowly flipped both states in 2016, taking the Badger State and the Wolverine State by less than 23,000 and 11,000 votes, respectively, on his way to winning 304 Electoral College votes and the presidency despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million.
Voter preference in both states is nearly identical to voters’ views on Trump’s job performance overall. In Wisconsin, registered voters disapprove rather than approve of the president’s work in office 58% to 41%, compared to a 52%-46% difference in Michigan, according to the survey.
Trump’s most glaring weakness among voters polled in both states is his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, criticism which has been fairly constant all year but has been growing louder and more resolute as Election Day nears.
This could particularly be a problem for the president in Wisconsin, where the state of the pandemic is worse than it has ever been. The Badger State is averaging more than 4,000 new cases per day and the crisis is overwhelming health care workers with record hospitalizations along with a 112% jump in deaths due to the virus, according to the poll.
Wisconsinites disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic by a 59%-39% margin, which is up 5 points from September, and trust Biden to handle it better than Trump by a similar 57-37% difference.
Michigan saw more muted results with regard to handling Covid-19, where the disapproval-approval disparity is 55% to 42%, perhaps in part because the outbreak in Michigan has been considerably less severe by most metrics.
Either way, Trump’s repeated insistence that the United States is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic and his personal broadsides against mitigation strategies like wearing masks and restricting businesses generally do not seem to be resonating with voters on either side of Lake Michigan, as about seven out of 10 registered voters in both states support the measures.
The economy—Trump’s signature issue along with law and order—may not save the president in either state, as voters in both have a negative view of the economy’s health.
In Wisconsin 52% trust Biden to handle the economy better than the 44% who trust it in Trump’s hands, results which are more or less flipped from last month. Trump fares better on economic issues with voters in Michigan, however, where 52% approve of his work on it and he has a 4-point advantage in terms of voter trust.
One noteworthy difference in support between the two states arrives in the suburbs. Biden leads Trump in Wisconsin suburbs 56% to 40%, but in Michigan’s suburbs Trump has a 49%-46% lead.
Suburban women, a demographic Trump has been aggressively courting this year amid data-backed suspicions they are turning away from him, continue to be a problem for the president in both states.
The group supports Biden more by 20 points in Wisconsin when compared with suburban men, comparable to the 17-point margin the poll reports in Michigan. Politically independent and moderate women also back Biden in greater numbers by around 20 points, the poll says.
Older Americans in both states seem to be moving sideways on Trump as well, with Wednesday’s survey showing a big 61%-37% preference margin in Biden’s favor among likely Wisconsin voters 65 and older and a smaller 12-point difference in Michigan. Trump won the group in both states in 2016 by 1-point and 4-point margins, respectively.
Michigan also has a close race for a U.S. Senate seat. The poll found Democratic incumbent Gary Peters has the support of 52% of likely voters in the state, whereas Republican challenger John James has the support of 46%, a surmountable difference that falls just beyond the survey’s 4-point margin of error.
Peter Wielhouwer, an associate professor of political science at Western Michigan University, said Wednesday that the Michigan poll results for both the presidential and Senate races “are largely consistent with other polls we’ve seen.”
Particularly in the Senate race, Wielhouwer said that although the tight competition is within the poll’s margin of error, “the same result has been replicated over and over again over multiple polls…that leads us to conclude there is something real going on there in terms of that division.”
The professor noted that, similar to Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign largely ignored Michigan in 2016 and paid the price for it, but this go-round Michigan has seen tons of campaigning in the form of ads and visits from candidates and A-list surrogates, reinforcing the competitive nature of the presidential race in a crucial battleground.
“[Trump’s] path to Electoral College victory is a tight one, so he’s really traveling these old blue wall states,” in order to retain them, Wielhouwer said.
Of note in the Senate race, in Wielhouwer’s view, is how both Peters and James “seem to be old school party members that don’t represent the extreme wing of either party,” presenting an interesting contrast to the hyper-partisan nature of many post-Trump elections up and down the ballot.
Wednesday’s ABC News/Washington Post survey was conducted via landline and cellphone interviews with a random sample of 902 registered voters in Michigan and 906 in Wisconsin.
Polling is not an exact science, however, and not all of them see Biden with such a commanding lead, particularly when it comes to the politically mercurial Badger State.
Survey results released by Marquette University Law School on Wednesday show Biden with a much thinner 48%-43% advantage over Trump among likely voters in Wisconsin, a difference which barely exceeds the poll’s roughly 4.5-point margin of error.
Marquette polls from throughout the year have shown Biden with a slim but steady lead in Wisconsin, which may have to do with how entrenched voters have become in their respective partisan camps.
Wednesday’s Marquette poll shows 95% of likely Biden voters and 93% of likely Trump voters have already made up their mind, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Wednesday that 1.5 million people have already voted.
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