With less than a week until Election Day, multiple polls show Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden leading Republican President Donald Trump in Wisconsin — a state deemed pivotal for both candidates.
The latest Marquette Law School Poll, which was conducted between Oct. 21-25 and is the last of this election cycle, shows Biden ahead of the president 48% to 43% among likely voters, close to the poll’s margin of error of +/-4.4 percentage points. Biden’s lead is consistent with previous Marquette polls conducted over the last six months.
“This has been a very stable race,” poll director Charles Franklin said. “Since May, all of our results have been a 5-point Biden lead, plus or minus 1 (percentage point).”
The latest poll predicts a much closer race than a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday that found Biden up 57% to Trump’s 40% among likely voters in Wisconsin. On Monday, the latest Wisconsin poll overseen by the UW-Madison Elections Research Center in conjunction with the Wisconsin State Journal reported that 53% of likely voters support Biden, compared with 44% for Trump.
Recent polling has been more stable than in 2016, but still sets up a familiar scenario for state Democrats. Hillary Clinton enjoyed a 6-point lead at this point four years ago, before she lost to Trump by less than 23,000 votes.
The importance of Wisconsin hasn’t been lost on the Trump campaign. On the heels of his Tuesday visit to West Salem, the president announced he will be holding another rally Friday in Green Bay. The president had originally planned a rally at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport in early October, but it was canceled after he tested positive for COVID-19. He was in Waukesha on Saturday and Janesville a week earlier.
Biden also plans to campaign in Wisconsin on Friday, but details had not yet been provided.
As with other polls released this week, Biden appears to hold the edge with early voters, with 64% of respondents in the latest Marquette poll saying they already voted for Biden, compared with 25% for Trump. At the same time, 56% of respondents who still plan to vote say they support the president, compared with 35% for Biden.
Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen received 2% support in the poll, while another 7% of likely voters said they are undecided or declined to say which candidate they support.
The latest UW poll found Biden holding a 9-point lead over Trump, a margin Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center, called “statistically significant.”
What’s more, the UW poll found that while Trump has the edge among respondents who have yet to vote, the margin does not appear large enough to compensate for Biden’s advantage among early and absentee voters.
Among Wisconsin respondents who have already voted, 73% say they’ve chosen Biden, while only 26% have gone for Trump. Among those who have yet to vote, 57% support Trump, compared with 39% for Biden.
According to the Post-ABC News poll, Biden’s margins in battleground states Wisconsin and Michigan are driven largely by the former vice president’s support among female likely voters. Biden leads Trump by 30 points among those women in Wisconsin. Biden and Trump are running about even among men in Wisconsin.
The poll also found Biden has strong support among respondents who say they are worried about COVID-19 or have already caught the disease, while Trump leads among those who are not worried about the pandemic. In addition, those who oppose state rules on masks and businesses overwhelmingly back Trump, while those who approve of such measures support Biden.
As of Wednesday, more than 1.5 million absentee ballots had been returned in Wisconsin, pushing turnout to just over 50% of the total voter turnout in 2016, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. A little more than 287,000 ballots have not yet been returned.
With the election less than a week away, state and local officials encourage voters to drop off their absentee ballots in person or at drop-off locations, rather than mail them in.
In the latest Marquette poll, Trump’s overall job approval increased slightly, to 47% approving, compared with 52% disapproving. Trump’s job approval was at 44% three weeks ago.
“Under normal circumstances we’d just say that’s within the range of the margin of error, and it is, but on the other hand his job approval numbers have been so steady for so long it is notable that it has ticked up 3 points toward his high range,” Franklin said.
Respondents’ approval for the president’s handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic fell to 40% in the most recent poll, compared with 51% approval back in March. In the same span, Trump’s disapproval rating grew from 46% in March to 58% this month.
Approval for Trump’s handling of protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis increased from 30% in June to 40% this month. Over the same timeframe, disapproval dropped slightly from 58% to 54%.
“As the virus has spread and the issues of the virus remain, we have seen that become more negative, while the protests, which are viewed as a weak area of his performance, nevertheless have become a little bit less negative over the course of the summer and now fall,” Franklin said.
As with polling earlier this month, approval for Trump’s handling of the economy remains stable at 51%, though disapproval grew from 45% to 48% over the last three weeks.
The perception of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ overall job performance also continues to dip, reaching 50% approval, compared with 65% approval back in March. Those disapproving increased from 29% to 43% over the seven-month span.
Approval of the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak dropped from 76% in March to 52% in the most recent poll, while disapproval grew from 17% to 45% in the same span.
Wisconsin’s state Legislature also continues to see its approval ratings drop, with only 36% approving in the most recent poll. The Republican-controlled chambers haven’t met to address a surge in COVID-19 cases in more than six months.
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