The big takeaway from today’s CNN poll is … maybe don’t take general election polls too seriously in May. The next biggest takeaway? Get ready for a replay of 2016, except without all of the Russia-collusion nonsense. Once again, the Democratic nominee leads in the national topline. And once again, we’re reminded that presidential elections aren’t won in the national popular vote:
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump now stands at five points, but Trump has an edge in the critical battleground states that could decide the electoral college, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
In the new poll, 51% of registered voters nationwide back Biden, while 46% say they prefer Trump. Partisans are deeply entrenched in their corners, with 95% of Democrats behind Biden and the same share of Republicans behind Trump. The two are close among independents (50% back Trump, 46% Biden, not a large enough difference to be considered a lead), but Biden’s edge currently rests on the larger share of voters who identify as Democrats.
That’s true, but it’s also true that Biden’s lead comes mainly from states that aren’t in Electoral College play. In the states that matter, Trump’s lead is even wider than Biden’s overall advantage:
Registered voters nationwide
Battleground state voters
— Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz) May 13, 2020
A seven-point lead is outside the margin of error even for a sample of 583 voters, which is the Overall demographics break down as expected except for a Trump deficit among seniors. However, Biden faces his own surprising age-demo challenge in the battleground states:
The former vice president continues to hold healthy leads among women (55% Biden to 41% Trump) and people of color (69% Biden to 26% Trump). The two run more closely among men (50% Trump to 46% Biden) and the President holds a clear edge among whites (55% Trump to 43% Biden). The poll suggests Biden outpaces Trump among voters over age 45 by a 6-point margin, while the two are near even among those under age 45 (49% Biden to 46% Trump).
Though other recent polling has shown some signs of concern for Biden among younger voters and strength among older ones, few have pegged the race as this close among younger voters. The results suggest that younger voters in the battleground states are tilted in favor of Trump, a stark change from the last CNN poll in which battleground voters were analyzed in March, even as other demographic groups shifted to a smaller degree. Given the small sample size in that subset of voters, it is difficult to determine with certainty whether the movement is significant or a fluke of random sampling. Nationally, Biden holds a lead over Trump among voters age 65 and older, a group which has been tilted Republican in recent presidential elections.
There are actually a few surprising demo results among battleground voters. First, under-50 voters favor Trump by eighteen points, 55/37, an astounding edge, while Biden wins over-50 voters by only four points, 52/48. Furthermore, Biden’s gender-gap advantage evaporates in the battlegrounds; he wins women by only two points in a 49/47 virtual tie. Trump also leads among unaffiliated battleground voters by 25 points, 59/34.
On the economy, which is likely to be even more crucial to voting choices in the aftermath of the pandemic shutdown, Trump clobbers Biden even among the full sample of voters, 54/42. Trump wins double-digit majorities in every age demo on this issue except 65+, which favors Biden by 53/45. Trump wins independents on the economy by twenty points at 58/38, wins every income and educational demo by majorities, and even manages to get 40% of “non-white” voters. In the battleground states, Trump gets 57% from the “non-white” demo.
It’s still early in the cycle, and the national emergency has made it more difficult to see how polls in May will hold up in November as predictive models. If I were on Team Trump, however, I’d find this very encouraging — and if I were on Team Biden, I’d be holding off on Election Night victory confetti orders.