Former Vice President Joe Biden’s solid lead over President Donald Trump has been larger than that of Hillary Clinton’s for nearly his entire 2020 presidential campaign. But poll comparisons show the Electoral College—and not the popular vote—remains a very strong Trump path to victory once again.
Biden currently leads Trump by 6.5 points according to an aggregate of national polls just weeks before Election Day. The Democratic nominee has maintained a sizable lead over the president since mid-May. Comparisons between 2020 and 2016 September polls show Biden up eight points compared to Clinton’s corresponding five-point lead four years ago. But pollsters are warning overconfident Democrats that Clinton was seven points up on Trump just three weeks before losing in 2016, and a recent surge of Trump support among white, working-class voters could once again plot his path to victory through the Electoral College.
Undecided voters in states like Wisconsin ultimately voted for Trump in 2016—one of many “missed” factors pollsters say they’ve corrected after his surprise win. Nonetheless, national polls are predicting Biden to easily win over the Electoral College.
Many 2016 polls in battleground states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania relied on skewed data and understated Trump’s support while overrepresenting college graduates. If those numbers are adjusted to reflect who really turned out on Election Day four years ago, Biden’s seemingly clear path to victory becomes far less apparent.
Surveys conducted in September by Marquette Law School and The Wall Street Journal/NBC News show Biden with a four-point lead over Trump in Wisconsin. But those same polls showed Clinton with a 6.5-point lead in 2016—a state Trump went on to win by less than one point. As the Journal noted Saturday, this reflects a 7.2-point miss by pollsters.
If this adjustment is applied today, Biden’s current 6.6-point advantage actually turns into a narrow Trump lead in Wisconsin.
Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania and Michigan today is cut in half when polling oversights such as a failure to count white Americans without college degrees is factored in to current projections. Trump won both states in 2016, despite trailing in all available polls by several percentage points. Additionally, 2016 pollsters said they failed to account for third-party voters and dejected supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who ultimately sided with Trump at a staggering rate in November 2016.
Figures released by the independent Cook Political Report Friday revealed how five key demographics including white, non-college graduates and Hispanics could potentially see Trump winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote by 5 million.
Both the Trump and Biden campaigns have honed in on the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Priorities USA, a pro-Democrat group, designated Pennsylvania as the tipping point in the 2020 Electoral College race—a distinction long held by Florida. Biden has made eight in-person trips to Pennsylvania and told supporters there last week it’s “personal” for him to win his native state.
Reports emerged last week that the Trump campaign is planning to ask Republican leaders in battleground states to bypass the popular vote, and to instead handpick electors to cast Electoral College votes in favor of the president.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls released this month show Trump’s support among white voters without college degrees is at about 60 percent—a six-point increase from 2016. Trump’s support among Hispanics has increased by nine points—18 to 27—compared to four years ago. The president, however, has failed to gain support among women voters. September surveys show Biden has the support of 57 percent of U.S. women, five points higher than Clinton, who would have become the country’s first female president had she gone on to win.
Clinton won the national popular vote by more than two percentage points—48 percent to 45.9 percent—but lost the Electoral College by 74 votes—306 to 232—to the surprise of most political pundits. Aside from one week in early August, Biden’s comparative lead over Trump has remained larger than that of Clinton’s. However, many Clinton supporters point to the FBI’s investigation into the former Secretary of State’s emails as a shocking factor which placed a large dent in her polling lead just weeks before the election.
A Gallup survey of American voters found a majority (61 percent) support abolishing the Electoral College altogether.
Newsweek reached out to both the Biden and Trump campaigns Saturday morning for additional remarks.