"Former vice president Joe Biden leads President Trump in the contested battleground of Pennsylvania, buoyed by strong support in the Philadelphia suburbs and his competitiveness in the state’s western counties that were a Trump stronghold in 2016, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Biden’s support stands at 54 percent to Trump’s 45 percent among the Keystone State’s likely voters and 54 percent to 44 percent among its registered voters. Biden’s current edge among likely voters appears sizable but is not definitive, given the five-point margin of error that applies to each candidate’s support. Other polls of Pennsylvania this month have found Biden leading Trump by an average of eight points.
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
Biden has edge over Trump in Pennsylvania
Q: If the presidential election were being held today for whom would you vote? Would you lean toward …
Among likely voters
Biden/Harris 54%
Error margin
Trump/Pence 45%
Note: “Other,” “Neither,” “Would not vote” and “No opinion” not shown.
Source: Sept. 21-26, 2020, Washington Post-ABC News poll of 567 likely voters in Pennsylvania with an error margin of +/- 5 percentage points.
With five weeks until Election Day, the poll finds that 53 percent of Pennsylvania’s registered voters approve of Trump’s management of the economy, but 57 percent disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and that issue appears to sway more voters than does the economy. Trump’s overall approval rating in the state among registered voters is 43 percent positive and 55 percent negative, with 49 percent saying they disapprove “strongly.”
Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes make it the most valuable of the three and the Trump and Biden campaigns have focused their resources accordingly in an effort to tip the state in their candidate’s direction. The candidates, too, have repeatedly campaigned in person in the state, which was home to Biden’s headquarters before the pandemic forced it closed.
The Post-ABC poll suggests Biden is challenging Trump for support among key groups and areas that drove the president’s 2016 win, including White voters without four-year college degrees, who account for about half of Pennsylvania’s electorate. In recent weeks, Biden has pressed the notion that as a Scranton native he has more affinity for blue collar voters than Trump, who was born and raised in wealthy circumstances in New York. Trump has countered that he is their biggest defender.
Trump leads Biden by 17 points among this group in the poll, although Trump won them by more than 30 points both nationally and in Pennsylvania four years ago. Biden also boasts a 23-point lead among White college graduates and a 64-point lead among non-White voters, similar to or larger than Clinton’s advantages with these two groups of voters four years ago.
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
Biden has wide lead among Pennsylvania women, White college graduates and those who plan to vote early
Among likely voters
Support Biden
Support Trump
college graduates
2016 Trump voters
2016 Clinton voters
Plan to vote
on Election Day
Plan to vote early
*Non-White results among registered voters.
Note: “Other,” “Neither,” “Would Not Vote” and “No opinion” not shown.
Source: Sept. 21-26, 2020, Washington Post-ABC News poll of 567 likely voters in Pennsylvania with an error margin of +/- 5 percentage points. Error margin larger among subgroups.
Trump’s support in western Pennsylvania also appears weaker than in 2016. Excluding Democratic-leaning Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, Trump has 50 percent support to Biden’s 47 percent among registered voters in western counties of the state. In 2016, Trump won these counties by 29 points. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won that region by 16 points on his way to losing the state to then-president Barack Obama.
Trump enjoys sizable leads in central Pennsylvania, where he won decisively in 2016, and has a smaller edge in northeastern Pennsylvania. In the central part of the state, his lead is nearly 30 points, the same as it was in 2016, while in northeast Pennsylvania, the president receives 56 percent support, comparable to four years ago. The Trump campaign has made it a priority to turn out even more voters in these areas than in 2016.
Biden is strongest in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Post-ABC poll finds the former vice president leading Trump by more than 2 to 1 in the Philadelphia area, including its populous suburbs of Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Clinton won these counties together by a 14-point margin in 2016, but they have grown more Democratic since then.
Statewide, women voters also are core to Biden’s support, favoring him by 23 points, while Trump holds a narrow seven-point edge among men.
Whatever his current deficit, Trump has a path to holding the state in November if he can replicate what happened four years ago. A month before the 2016 election, several Pennsylvania polls showed Trump trailing by double digits. Clinton’s lead deteriorated in the final two weeks of that campaign, a time in which her campaign was buffeted by renewed questions about her private email system. Exit polls show that Trump won late-deciding voters by double-digits and carried the state by about 45,000 votes, or seven-tenths of a percent.
Trump maintains an advantage on enthusiasm, with 71 percent of registered voters who support him saying they are “very enthusiastic” about doing so, compared with 51 percent of Biden supporters. A big enthusiasm gap exists between younger and older Biden supporters. Among those ages 65 and older, 79 percent say they are very enthusiastic about their support. That compares with 27 percent among voters under the age of 50. Still, 91 percent of Biden supporters under age 50 rule out voting for Trump.
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
Trump supporters in Pennsylvania more likely to say they are “very enthusiastic” than Biden supporters
Among registered voters supporting each candidate
Support Trump
Very enthusiastic
Support Biden
Somewhat enthusiastic
Not so enthusiastic
Not enthusiastic at all
Note: “No opinion” not shown.
Source: Sept. 21-26, 2020, Washington Post-ABC News poll of 310-358 Trump and Biden voters in Pennsylvania with an error margin of +/- 6-6.5 percentage points.
Few voters who cast ballots for Trump or Clinton in 2016 are ready to defect, but among those who are there is a slight advantage for Biden. The poll finds 92 percent of likely voters who supported Trump four years ago currently support him, but 8 percent of them currently support Biden. By contrast, 98 percent of Clinton voters say they support Biden, with 1 percent switching to Trump.
One quarter of Pennsylvania’s registered voters cite the economy as the most important issue in their vote choice — more than any other issue. The coronavirus outbreak is second at 18 percent, with a trio of issues — crime and safety, equal treatment of racial groups, and health care — grouped closely behind. Ranking lowest is “the next appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court,” with 9 percent saying it is their top issue.
Trump and Biden supporters view the issues through competing lenses. Among Trump voters, the economy is by far the most important issue, cited by 47 percent. Crime and safety is next at 22 percent. Just 3 percent highlight the coronavirus outbreak. Among Biden supporters, the pandemic is the top issue, cited by 30 percent, followed by equal treatment of racial groups at 21 percent and health care at 19 percent.
About 6 in 10 Pennsylvanian likely voters rate the national economy as not so good or poor, and they split 85 percent to 15 percent for Biden. The roughly 4 in 10 who say the economy is good or excellent prefer Trump by a comparable margin, 86 percent to 14 percent. Although the president has net positive ratings on his handling of the economy, he enjoys no advantage over Biden on the question of who Pennsylvania voters trust to handle the issue going forward.
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
Pennsylvania voters trust Biden more to handle the coronavirus outbreak, Supreme Court appointment and health care
Share of registered voters who trust each more to handle ...
Trust Biden
Trust Trump
Equal treatment of
racial groups
Health care
The coronavirus
The next appointment to
the U.S. Supreme Court
Crime and safety
The economy
Note: “Both,” “Neither” and “No opinion” not shown.
Source: Sept. 21-26, 2020, Washington Post-ABC News poll of 702 registered Pennsylvania voters with an error margin of +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Similarly, views of the coronavirus form a dividing line between the candidates. More than 6 in 10 likely voters in Pennsylvania say they are worried that someone in their immediate family might catch the coronavirus while about a third are not worried — and 3 percent say they or a family member has already caught the virus.
Those worried about the coronavirus support Biden, 75 percent to 24 percent, while those who are not worried support Trump by a wider 82 percent to 16 percent. In addition to the overall disapproval of the president for his handling of the pandemic, Biden is more trusted to deal with the issue, by 54 percent to 40 percent among registered voters.
The poll finds 54 percent of registered voters support recent protests against police treatment of Black people, yet voters give differing responses when asked which candidate can better handle aspects of the issue. Biden is trusted by a 20-point margin to handle “equal treatment of racial groups,” but registered voters are roughly divided on which candidate can better handle “crime and safety,” with 50 percent choosing Biden and 47 percent choosing Trump.
On other issues, Biden has a narrow advantage on handling a Supreme Court nomination and healthy leads when it comes to health care and equal treatment of racial groups. The president does not have a significant advantage on any issue.
The survey was mostly completed before the president on Saturday nominated federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But a 53 percent majority of Pennsylvania voters say they would prefer that the winner of the election nominate someone to succeed Ginsburg rather than President Trump selecting someone and the Senate going ahead with confirmation proceedings before the outcome of the election is clear. The proceedings are expected to conclude before Election Day.
Similar to national public opinion, more Pennsylvania voters who support Biden say it is “more important” for their candidate to win because of the court vacancy than Trump supporters say about their candidate, 61 percent to 41 percent.
Most Pennsylvania voters (65 percent) say they will cast their ballots on Election Day while slightly more than 3 in 10 plan to vote early, either by mail or in person at an early voting site. Four years ago, just four percent of voters in the state cast absentee ballots, but at the time, the state required voters to have an excuse to do so. This year, any Pennsylvania voter can request a mail-in ballot.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 21-26, 2020, among a random sample of 808 adults, including 702 registered voters and 567 likely voters in Pennsylvania, with 63 percent of all interviews completed on cellphones and the remainder on landlines. The margin of sampling error for results among registered voters is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, and the error margin is five points among likely voters.