Former Vice President Joe Biden has opened up a 9-point lead over President Donald Trump in the critical battleground of Pennsylvania, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released ahead of Tuesday night’s presidential debate.
The poll shows the president with 45 percent support compared with Biden’s 54 percent among likely voters polled, a sizable advantage for the Democratic nominee in a state Trump won in 2016 by less than a single percentage point. The survey comes five weeks out from Election Day, and hours before the two candidates are set to square off for the first time on a debate stage.
Pennsylvania was one of a trio of Rust Belt states that, after voting for Democratic presidential nominees for years, flipped for Trump in 2016 thanks at least in part to his strength with working-class voters. But Biden, who grew up in Scranton, Pa., has consistently polled well in the state, making its 20 electoral votes a top target for his campaign.
The Post/ABC poll shows the former vice president erasing some of Trump’s advantage among key electorates, including blue-collar workers. Though Trump retains a 17-point lead among white voters without a four-year college degree, a demographic that accounts for nearly half of Pennsylvania voters, that’s down significantly from 2016, when Trump won the group by around double that. Biden’s support among white college graduates and nonwhite voters is similar to that of Hillary Clinton four years ago.
The Post/ABC poll also shows Biden eating into Trump’s margins in the western part of the state, where Trump held a commanding lead in 2016 on his way to a narrow win.
While Trump won counties in western Pennsylvania — excluding Democratic leaning Allegheny County — by 29 points in 2016, he now leads Biden in those counties by just 3 points, 50-47. GOP nominee Mitt Romney won the region by 16 points in 2012, but still lost the state to then-President Barack Obama.
Trump still holds commanding leads in central parts of Pennsylvania, a region where he registered strong support in 2016.
Biden is also winning among 2016 voters looking to pull the lever for a different party this year, with the former vice president earning the support of 8 percent of 2016 Trump voters. The survey found 1 percent of 2016 Clinton voters who said they now support Trump.
The poll also found Trump’s approval rating in Pennsylvania underwater, 43-55, with 49 percent of registered voters responding that they "strongly" disapprove of the president. Trump holds an advantage over Biden when it comes to his handling of the economy, an issue a quarter of voters called the most important factor in their votes.
But on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which 18 percent of voters called the most important factor in their choice, 57 percent disapprove of the way Trump has handled the outbreak.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted by phone from Sept. 21-26 among a random sample of 808 adults, including 702 registered voters and 567 likely voters in Pennsylvania. Results among registered voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, and results among likely voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 points.