Biden Leads Every Swing State Poll


A flurry of polls in the swing states this week are pointing in the same direction, with former Vice President Joe Biden leading 19 of 19.

Forbes (“Nearly 20 Swing State Polls Were Released Today-Biden Leads In All Of Them“):

A total of 19 polls of voters in swing states from four different pollsters were released Thursday, with former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump in every single one, including in historically Republican states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

Biden leads by as much as 18 points in Michigan in a poll from Republican firm Hodas & Associates, which also put him up 16 points in Wisconsin and 12 points in Pennsylvania.

Polls released by the New York Times and Siena College put Biden up by double digits in those states, with 11-point leads in Michigan and Wisconsin and a 10-point lead in Pennsylvania, as well as a 9-point lead in North Carolina, an 8-point lead in Florida and a 7-point lead in Arizona, all states that voted for Trump in 2016.

Redfield & Wilton polls showed almost identical results, with Biden leading by 11 points in Michigan, 10 points in Pennsylvania, 9 points in Wisconsin, 6 points in North Carolina and 4 points in Arizona and Wisconsin, with third-party candidates Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins never polling above the margin of error.

But polls of typically Republican-leaning swing states from Fox News yielded the most shocking results, with Biden ahead by 9 points in Florida, 2 points in North Carolina and Georgia and 1 point in Texas, which voted for Trump by 8 points in 2016.

Overall, Trump trails Biden by 10 points nationally in the RealClearPolitics polling average, with the New York Times/Siena poll putting him down 14 points.

The country is too polarized to have a 1984– (or even 1988-) style electoral landslide but we could be in for the biggest blowout since those days. Arkansan Bill Clinton carried several traditional red states in 1996 but still managed only 379 Electoral votes. Barring an epic collapse, Biden should exceed 400.

The FiveThirtyEight gang, who weight the polls based on their historic track records, see Trump’s Electoral College advantage slipping and has Biden up at least marginally in all the battlegrounds:

Obviously, these are some very thin numbers. And the difference between winning and losing Texas and Ohio, in particular, is massive.

Yes, candidates have seen big early-summer leads collapse in the past.

. . . Biden’s average support and margin over Trump are historically large — the largest of any contender since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Of course, there are still four months to go until Election Day, but the fact that Biden has such a sizable lead — already bigger than Hillary Clinton’s largest lead over Trump, which peaked at 7.5 points in 2016 — is notable. Heck, even Barack Obama never led by more than 8 points in our 2008 national average, and that wound up being a blowout.

It’s not just Biden’s margin that stands out, either; he’s also only one of three candidates to crack the 50 percent mark at this point in the cycle. (The other two were Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984, both of whom were incumbents who went on to win landslide victories by 23 and 18 points, respectively.) It’s unlikely that Biden wins by that sort of margin, given our increasingly polarized politics, but it is a sign that there are fewer undecided or third-party voters for Trump to pick up to help improve his position. It also doesn’t bode well for Trump that he is in the worst position of any incumbent since Jimmy Carter in 1980.

But before you declare Biden the winner, remember his lead is not insurmountable. Polls closer to November could very well show a race that is tightening. At this point in the 1988 cycle, Michael Dukakis led nationally by almost 5 points, and in 2000, George W. Bush was up by nearly 8 points. But Dukakis ended up losing by nearly 8 points in November while Bush narrowly lost the popular vote. (He still won the Electoral College, thanks to Florida.)

But two things are different. Both 1988 and 2000 were elections in which there was no incumbent, as two-term Presidents Reagan and Clinton were ineligible for re-election. They were only indirectly referenda on the sitting President and thus more volatile. And Biden’s lead is considerably larger than that held by Dukakis and Bush.

And, while there is understandably some magical thinking about Trump because his 2016 win was so shocking, Biden’s position is far different from Clinton’s.

. . . Clinton’s lead was much smaller. Applying our current polling-average methodology to 2016 polls, Clinton led national polls by an average of about 4.0 points four months before the 2016 election, and 3.8 points on Election Day itself. So while a normal-sized polling error was enough to throw the 2016 election to Trump, it would take a much bigger — and much unlikelier — polling error for Trump to be ahead right now.

Still, there’s a silver lining in all of this for Trump. Using the chart above, we see that, even though all of the states toward the bottom are current leaning toward Biden, some heavily, the overall polling in the states show them to the right of the country as a whole.

That means that, if the overall race tightens, those states could slide into Trump’s column, allowing him to once again win a majority of electoral votes even if Biden wins the national popular vote.

Right now, according to our polling averages, Florida would be the “tipping point” state of the election — the state that will give a candidate his 270th electoral vote. (In other words, if Biden wins every state above Florida in the table, and Trump wins every state below Florida, both would still be short of 270 electoral votes. So whoever won Florida would win the election.) Biden currently leads by 7.4 points in Florida, according to our polling average there, which is 2.3 points less than his national lead. That means Trump could win the state — and therefore, the way things are set up right now, the Electoral College — even if Biden still leads the national average by up to 2.3 points on Election Day. That said, it’s still early in the campaign, and the tipping point state will likely continue to shuffle around (for example, Minnesota was the tipping-point state last week).

For now, though, it’s notable that the Midwestern swing states — namely, MichiganPennsylvania and Wisconsin — are still a bit more Democratic-leaning than the emerging swing states in the Sun Belt, like ArizonaGeorgiaNorth Carolina and Texas. That’s a similar story to 2016, when the election was decided in the Midwest. But based on these early polling averages, a few states seem to have gotten a bit more Democratic since the last election (even accounting for the bluer national environment). For example, Michigan’s polling average almost exactly mirrors the national polling average right now, despite Michigan voting 2.3 points to the right of the nation in 2016. It’s especially surprising to see Michigan so far away from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the table above, considering how similarly those three states voted in 2016.

Another thing that’s different than four years ago is that the 2016 elections already happened, and pollsters are thus chastened about making bold predictions.

We’re still light on polls in many states; for instance, we’ve seen a grand total of one Pennsylvania poll conducted this month. So be sure to check back to see how the polling averages shift. For now, though, things look pretty good for Biden.

The only poll that matters, of course, is the one on Election Day. (Although that’s less true than it used to be, given the increase in early voting.) Still, if I had to bet, I’d bet on Biden. And I’d bet a lot.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    As of yesterday, Sabato has Biden at 268 electoral votes with states leaning Dem. They rate 66 EV’s as toss-ups. If Joe’s blue wall holds, he’ll be a lock as he should pick up one of AZ, Wis, NC or Fla, given he is up in all those states, though w/in the MOE. BUT, Tiny could again pull an inside straight and get 270.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Biden needs to run like he’s 20 points down.
    No matter what the polls say, he is still running in an election that has been very effectively rigged by Republican’s thru voter suppression.

  3. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    True about Biden. But Trump is very effectively sabotaging himself. In today’s Free-for-All Forum, I mentioned an Atlantic article by Peter Beinart in which he discusses how Trump is very effectively torpedoing his own electoral chances by becoming even more stupid, bigoted, and churlish in reaction to events. Surveys show that people are increasingly sympathetic to BLM. So how does Trump respond to that? By becoming even more “inflammatory on race.”

  4. Lounsbury says:

    Indeed, this campaign should be about pressurizing Trump into unforced errors – he is not good under this kind of pressure. The more he is out there in the face of a failed Covid19 strategy and response, the more denialism he leaps into, the worse he makes his situation.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    – Trump and or Biden contract COVID, or other major health issue.
    – Civil unrest blows up.
    – War or other foreign policy crisis.
    Otherwise I’m hard put to see what could significantly change the equation. It took them two years to make HER EMAILS!!!! work. They only have four months left to lie about Huntergate or whatever else they might have, and COVID, the economy, and BLM are likely to continue to suck the air out of the room. I expect Trump to make some October surprise vaccine BS announcement, but who’ll believe him?

  6. JohnSF says:

    Trump is the reductio ad absurdam of the conservative tactic (as promulgated by Carl Rove and Lynto Crosby) of “rev up the base”.
    He’s very good at that; which gives him vital leverage against the party establishment.

    But as event have eroded support outside the Trumpian Republican core, Trump’s only response is to redouble appealing to his base.
    As you and Beinart say, whether this is operationally successful, or a Tulsa-style fiasco hardly matters; in the current political context what plays to the base increasingly alienates the “floating center” ( and energises the Democrat base too, for added damage.)

    But another factor is Trump’s likely insurance policy. He may not have thought of this but I’d bet some in his circles (hi Javanka!) have.
    Trump (and his inner circle) wants to win to stay out of jail; and preferably maintain their lifestyle.
    If that fails, what’s the fallback?
    I’d bet it’s developing a Trump media brand (OANN synergy? role for Parler?); the primary role is as a money making vehicle, of course.

    But more subtly, if Trump can use a media platform to hang onto his base within the Republican after a defeat, he may be able continue to leverage support from Republican politicians (and judges?).

    Interactions with Fox and the reactions of Murdochs, and other key figures in the party/donor/media establishment, to any such strategy will be interesting.

    The problem is, a media based strategy for mitigating electoral defeat runs counter to a route to electoral success. Such a dilemma. Poor Donald.

  7. JohnSF says:

    Oh, yes, and that’s another reason why the Kpop/TikTok sabotage artwork is so hilarious.

    The Trump campaign is pretty certainly trying to maximise rally signup orders of magnitude beyond capacity to grow contact lists for fundraising, social media campaigns in the campaign (including feed-in to realtime mega-focus group message shaping) and for a mailing base for a media strategy (and probably an eye to some list on-selling grift as well).

    Now their entire Tulsa take has to be be expensively scrubbed to try to weed out 16 year old Korean music fans. *chortle*

  8. Michael Cain says:

    I don’t understand how people look at the trend in Colorado over the last 15 years and still include it on a list of “battleground” states. All the statewide offices are blue now except Cory Gardner and he was a fluke: it was a Republican wave year, Udall ran perhaps the worst single campaign I can recall in my life, and Gardner squeaked it out by 40,000 votes. In the six years since then Colorado has added on the order of 400,000 voters, skewing Democratic. If Gardner (or Trump) can stay within 10 percentage points, I’ll be seriously surprised.

  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Michael Cain: I agree. I’m a Front Range transplant to Grand Junction because I like the red rock country and archaeology here (definitely not the politics). I think many consider CO a battleground state is because the minority conservatives are so loud and preposterous. The Nevilles, Boebert, RMGO, Ken Buck and many other individuals and organizations are capable of pulling such ridiculous antics and saying anything to get a reaction it makes the state look redder than it is.

  10. inhumans99 says:

    I have been seeing articles today that Trump did an interview with his favorite Fox “News” personality Sean Hannity and it was a bit jarring in that he gave off the vibe of someone resigned to possibly losing in November. If that is how he sounds in front of one of his most passionate cheerleaders of his time as President then I can start to sincerely appreciate that he just wants to spend the rest of his days as President playing golf.

    I get the feeling folks roll their eyes when Michael Reynolds keeps saying things like resign, self-pardon, flee…but he might be onto something. It is looking increasingly unlikely that Russia will be as invested in helping Trump steal the election, and it is way too late in the process for the GOP to make something stick to Biden like they did with Clinton (Benghazi, emails, her being an icky female who has cooties and wants to be President).

    We basically have 4 months to go before the election and Covid is still kicking butt and taking names so the time for Huntergate/Tara Reade type attempts to tar Biden has basically come and gone. We may get an October surprise but it might come in the form of Trump’s resignation.

  11. CSK says:

    I said this the other day. If Trump bails, it will be shortly–say a few weeks–before the election. That way, he doesn’t have to face the humiliation of being a loser. Since he never thinks about anything or anyone but himself, he’ll be perfectly happy to leave Pence and the RNC holding the bag–although he’ll expect Pence to grant him a pardon for federal offenses if it comes to that.

    He can spout some bullshit about having Made America Great, and his cult will buy it. Then he can go off and start Trump TV, which was his intent back in 2016 when he expected to lose to HRC.

    All he has to do is figure out a way to dodge the SDNY prosecutor. Good luck with that one.

  12. JohnSF says:

    Questions from a Brit;
    SDNY is a US Federal Prosecutors office (?); how much leverage could be brought to bear on it and it’s relevant courts by a Republican party that has lost the Presidency, and House, but say has still level in the Senate?
    Could Trump (and the Trump associates) escape prosecution/conviction by influence?
    Also, what pressures could an out-of-power Republican party bring to bear on New York State prosecutors?

    I ask because in the UK legal routes seldom bring politicians to account, even when out of office.
    How does the US situation compare?

  13. Scott F. says:


    …he doesn’t have to face the humiliation of being a loser.

    Someone needs to tell him that ship has already sailed.

  14. CSK says:

    Well, if Trump can get Pence to give him a pardon, then he escapes federal prosecution. It won’t matter what influence the Republican Party has or doesn’t have. If Trump isn’t re-elected in November, he could, in theory, anyway, be arrested the moment Biden is sworn in. That’s unless he resigns this October and gets Pence to give him a presidential pardon, as I said.

    There’s nothing Pence can do if the state of New York decides to prosecute him.

    @Scott F.:
    Well, he may realize that–and I think he’s beginning to realize it–but he’ll never say so. He’s a winner at all costs.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    As Monala mentioned on the Open Thread, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, when health care is a very critical service, we have the Trump Administration pushing the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA…I mean, talk about idiocy, it really is like he is trying very hard to lose this election, it makes no sense…thinking of the Richard Condon novel, perhaps we could call Trump the Manhattan Candidate…