Former Vice President Joe Biden holds an advantage in the upper Midwest states of Wisconsin and Michigan, according to CNN Polls conducted by SSRS, but the race between Biden and President Donald Trump is tighter in the battlegrounds of Arizona and North Carolina.
Trump won all four of these states in 2016, and a loss on Tuesday in any of them would make his narrow path to 270 electoral votes more difficult.
The polls, conducted as the campaign comes to its close, show little movement in the presidential race compared with previous CNN polls in each state.
The surveys suggest Biden has banked a broad advantage among those voters who have already cast their ballots by mail or through early in-person voting, with Trump leading by a wide margin among those who have yet to vote. The size of that bloc of later voters could dictate the outcome of the race.
In Arizona and Wisconsin, the poll results are roughly in line with an average of recent high-quality public polling on the race. The Arizona survey shows a race within the poll’s margin of sampling error, with Biden at 50% support to Trump’s 46%. In Wisconsin, Biden has the lead, with 52% behind him vs. 44% for Trump.
The North Carolina result shows Biden narrowly ahead of Trump, 51% to 45%, just outside the poll’s 4 point margin of sampling error. The average of public polling in North Carolina suggests a slightly tighter race for the presidency than does the new poll, though an NBC News/Marist College poll there this week also found Biden with a narrow advantage.
In Michigan, the results suggest a wider margin than most public polling there, with 53% for Biden to 41% for Trump, but the results for each candidate are within the survey’s margin of error of the average estimated support for that candidate.
In Michigan and Wisconsin, White voters make up a larger share of the population than they do in Arizona or North Carolina, and they also are more apt to support Biden in Michigan and Wisconsin than they are in either Arizona or North Carolina. White voters with college degrees in the two northern states favor Biden by especially wide margins, 61% support the former vice president in both Michigan and Wisconsin, compared with about half in Arizona (50%) and North Carolina (51%). Majorities of White voters without college degrees back Trump, with his strongest support among that group coming in North Carolina, where 64% back the President.
There are sizable gender gaps across all four states, with 55% or more of women backing Biden in each of these states, while men break in Trump’s favor in North Carolina and Arizona and split evenly between the two in Michigan and Wisconsin.
On the two defining issues of the 2020 campaign — the economy and the coronavirus pandemic — voters diverge over which candidate would better handle each of them. Biden has a sizable edge as more trusted to handle the coronavirus outbreak across all four states, with a 7-point edge on the matter in Arizona his narrowest margin. Voters in Arizona and North Carolina would largely rather see the economy in Trump’s hands (54% Trump to 43% Biden in Arizona, 51% Trump to 46% Biden in North Carolina), and the two candidates are even on the issue in Michigan (49% Trump to 48% Biden) and Wisconsin (49% Biden to 48% Trump) even with Biden’s wider edge in overall preferences there.
Majorities of likely voters in all four states, however, disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president, ranging from 51% disapproval in Arizona to 56% in Michigan.
Trump’s backers in all four states are largely casting ballots to show support for the President. More than 7 in 10 Trump voters in each poll say their vote is more for Trump than it is against Biden (79% in Wisconsin, 77% in Arizona and Michigan and 71% in North Carolina say so). Among Biden backers, though, it’s more divided. A majority in Wisconsin say their vote is for the former vice president (52%) rather than against Trump (43%), but the numbers show about an even split in Arizona (48% against Trump, 45% for Biden), Michigan (47% for Biden, 43% against Trump) and North Carolina (45% for Biden, 43% against Trump).
In all four states, Biden holds advantages as the more empathetic candidate and the one more apt to unify the country. Voters in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin say Biden more than Trump has a clear plan to solve the country’s problems. In Arizona, voters are split between the two candidates on that measure. And voters in three states — Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin — split about evenly over who would keep Americans safe from harm. Trump has the advantage in Arizona and in Wisconsin as the candidate with the stamina and sharpness to be president, while voters in North Carolina and Michigan split on that question.
Three of these states also feature closely watched Senate contests. In Arizona and Michigan, the polls show a Democratic advantage. In Arizona, 52% back Democratic challenger Mark Kelly and 45% back Republican incumbent Sen. Martha McSally. In Michigan, 52% back Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, while 40% back Republican challenger John James. In North Carolina, though, it’s a near even race, with 47% behind Democrat Cal Cunningham and 44% backing Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis.
North Carolina will also elect a governor this year, and in that race, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper holds a clear lead over his Republican challenger, Dan Forest, 52% to 42%.
The CNN Polls in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin were conducted by telephone from October 23 through 30 among random samples of roughly 1,000 adults in each state. That included 865 likely voters in Arizona, 907 likely voters in Michigan, 901 likely voters in North Carolina and 873 likely voters in Wisconsin. Results among likely voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points in Arizona, 3.8 points in Michigan, 4.0 points in North Carolina and 3.9 points in Wisconsin. It is higher among subgroups.