Battleground state polling shows tighter Trump-Biden race than national polls

In the RealClearPolitics polling averages on Thursday, Biden led Trump by 9.4% nationally but just 4.9% in key battleground states.

Published: October 15, 2020 7:43pm

Updated: October 16, 2020 2:34pm

While national polls may reliably forecast the national popular vote in a presidential election, given the electoral college map, battleground state polling is more meaningful — and in 2020 battleground polls show a much tighter race between President Trump and challenger Joe Biden.

In the RealClearPolitics polling averages on Thursday, Biden led Trump by 9.4% nationally but just 4.9% in key battleground states. In the battleground states, moreover, Trump on Thursday was running 0.5% ahead of where he was at this stage of the 2016 campaign, according to the RCP average — the 12th consecutive day on which the president outperformed his corresponding 2016 numbers.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen, who conducts the Just the News Daily Poll, also released for PoliticalIQ a series of polls in four battleground states showing a race for the White House that remains competitive. Trump was victorious in all four states in 2016, and they are crucial to his reelection hopes. Rasmussen reported that Biden leads narrowly in all four — FloridaNorth CarolinaPennsylvania, and Michigan. However, with a slightly stronger-than-expected Republican turnout, Rasmussen said the president would take the lead in Florida and North Carolina.

Like the polls in the RealClearPolitics average, Rasmussen's nationwide poll for Just the News also showed a wider lead for Biden than among his PoliticalIQ key battleground polls. And the PoliticalIQ polls conducted among 800 likely voters show results in all four states that were within the margin of error, meaning that Trump could prove victorious and defy conventional wisdom as he did in 2016. 

"One particular challenge involves estimating the number of mail-in votes that will be cast," Rasmussen wrote. "Those who plan to vote by mail overwhelmingly prefer Biden over Trump. Therefore, the larger the number of votes cast by mail, the better it is for the Democrat."

Rasmussen told Just the News that the polling wild card this cycle is sampling during a pandemic — something for which there is no precedent, as polling wasn't practiced in 1918 during the last global pandemic. Rasmussen said if the race remains close, this could create a crisis of legitimacy for whoever wins.

Trump senior campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski said on a press call this week that internal campaign analysis showed that 58% of all polls published last week "failed to meet the basic media standards of transparency. And what that means is they fail to significantly disclose the partisan makeup or the cross tabs."


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Noting the widely inaccurate polling results released by mainstream media outlets during 2016, Lewandowski told reporters that the same polling firms that the campaign relied on during 2016 were working for the Trump campaign again in 2020 and were showing similar results, namely that Trump support was not being accurately captured.

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