NEW YORK (Reuters) – While President Donald Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden in national public opinion polls, he does not need popular support to get re-elected, just a majority of votes in enough large, competitive states to win the Electoral College.
With that in mind, Reuters on Monday begins taking a closer look at America’s swing states with polls nearly every week from now until Election Day on Nov. 3 in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Here is why Reuters decided to focus on those states, and what it will be looking for in the data.
WHAT IS SO INTERESTING ABOUT THESE STATES?
All six states have been competitive in recent elections, with nearly the same number of voters backing Democrats as Republicans. All six are large enough to tip a close election to either candidate.
In 2016, Trump won three of those states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — by less than 1 percentage point, and a fourth, Florida, by less than 2 points. Those states shifted the race decisively in the Republican’s favor, netting Trump 75 of his 306 total electoral votes that year.
That Electoral College margin meant that Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
This year, pre-election polls show that Biden is currently leading Trump in support by a few percentage points among likely voters in those states. But in some, like Florida, Biden’s advantage in support has been shrinking.
WHAT QUESTIONS WILL REUTERS ASK?
Besides their support for the president, the Reuters/Ipsos state polls will measure respondents’ interest in voting and what is driving their vote choice this year.
The polls will ask respondents about their perceptions of the United States: whether they think the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, their concerns about COVID-19 and their support for Black Lives Matter. The poll will also ask them which presidential candidate would be better at fixing the country’s problems.
The Reuters/Ipsos polls will also follow the latest news from the 2020 race and insert topical questions as they come up on the campaign trail.
WHAT WILL REUTERS LOOK FOR IN THE DATA?
The most interesting findings will come after the questions have been asked multiple times over a few weeks, revealing any changes in support for the candidates.
This occurred four years ago, when national support for Democrat Hillary Clinton eroded in the final two weeks before the election, transforming what had been a comfortable lead in October into a dead heat in November.
As of September 2020, roughly 1 in 10 likely voters have yet to pick a major-party candidate, according to Reuters/Ipsos national polling, meaning that Biden’s small leads in some battleground states could disappear once all voters make up their minds.
Besides shifts in support for the candidates, Reuters will also isolate the population of undecided voters. It will measure this group’s political leanings and their support for various issues. This could provide insights about their decision-making.
HOW OFTEN WILL REUTERS POLL BATTLEGROUND STATES?
Reuters and Ipsos will conduct surveys six times in all six states. The first set of polls will be published on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the remaining polls will be published in each of the last five weeks before Election Day on Nov. 3.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)