(CN) – With just over seven months to go before the November election, a poll released Tuesday showed the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a dead heat with Republican President Donald Trump.
The Monmouth University Poll showed Biden held a negligible 3-point lead over Trump, although the likely Democratic nominee leads in the crucial counties of key swing states – indicating the Democrat may have a leg up in the Electoral College.
“The race looks tight right now between Trump and the probable Democratic nominee,” said Patrick Murray, director of the 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 shows that Trump maintains a solid base of support in the “red counties” that went overwhelmingly his way in 2016, while Biden predictably holds a huge lead in counties that went for Hillary Clinton by more than 10 percentage points.
But in the swing counties, where neither candidate prevailed by a margin greater than 10%, Biden looks to be eking out a narrow lead at this stage of the race.
These 300 swing counties, which account for about a fifth of the American electorate, have a 50% support level for Biden, while 41% support Trump.
“The poll results suggest Biden may actually be starting out with an advantage in crucial swing areas of the country,” Murray said.
As a point of comparison, Hillary Clinton won those same 300 counties, but by only one percentage point.
Nationally, Biden earned 48% support, while Trump earned 45%. The margin of error for the poll was 3.6%, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat.
Support for each candidate when accounting for partisanship yields unsurprising results, as 90% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats expressed support for their party’s nominee. At a national level, independents are evenly split, with 45% for Trump and 44% for Biden.
Biden earns significantly more support than Trump from the younger demographic (56% to 34%) and maintains a slight edge with folks 55 or older (50% to 44%). Trump is winning big (53% to 40%) with people aged 35 to 54.
Each candidate has also seen his respective personal ratings spike in recent days as public attention coalesces around the two men.
Biden has a 43% favorable rating and a 43% unfavorable rating, according to the latest poll. This is up from February, when he saw a 40% to 53% ratio. Trump also improved his favorability rating in March with a 45% to 47% favorable-unfavorable ratio, up from February when his ratings were underwater at 44% to 53%.
But as with all things in the United States, and the world, the specter of the coronavirus looms. Monmouth University Poll asked respondents about their personal finances and their degree of comfort with the current economy.
Tuesday’s poll indicates 62% of respondents said they felt secure in their personal finances, while only 25% said they are struggling. But since the poll was conducted between March 18-22, before many of the full-scale lockdowns were undertaken throughout the country, it might not accurately reflect the state of play.
“The coronavirus situation is just starting to hit American family finances,” Murray said. “It will be important to track these trends and the impact they might have on the 2020 presidential contest.”
Another notable trend in the poll related to voter enthusiasm.
Most of the respondents said they feel the same level of enthusiasm to vote as compared to the last presidential election, while 30% said they feel more enthusiastic.
The dip in enthusiasm is primarily a Republican phenomenon, with only 36% saying they are eager to vote, down from the 47%.
Conversely, 30% of Democrats said they were less enthusiastic to vote when polled in February. But the March number dwindled to 18%, showing Democrats are at least as equally or more enthusiastic to vote compared to 2016.