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Poll: Biden maintains lead over Trump with likely voters

  • By Domenico Montanaro/NPR
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead President Trump in the 2020 presidential election nationally by a substantial margin, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Biden leads Trump by 9 points, 52% to 43%, among likely voters, the survey finds. This is the first time this election cycle the poll has screened for likely voters — this narrower group is the most likely to actually cast a ballot, compared to the larger group of people who are registered to vote.

There isn’t much change from registered voters, however. Among them, Biden leads Trump, 52% to 42%. That’s mostly unchanged from last month in the survey taken just before the party conventions began, a reflection of how remarkably consistent this race has been in national polling. Of course, the election will be determined in key states that make up the Electoral College rather than in a national popular vote.

When third-party candidates are included, it remains about the same. In a four-way race, adding Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, Biden leads Trump by a slightly lower 49% to 42%. Jorgensen pulls in 5%, while Hawkins gets 2%. Hawkins, however, has been rejected from the presidential ballot in some key states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Against Trump, Biden shows strength among white voters with a college degree, especially white women; women overall; young voters; and those who live in cities and suburbs.

Trump’s strengths are with white evangelicals; whites without a degree, especially white men without one; and those who live in rural areas or small towns.

With likely independent voters, Biden leads by 21 points, 57% to 36%. Trump won independents by 4 points in 2016.

Notably, like in August’s survey, Biden is again recording record support with white voters for a Democratic presidential candidate. Biden is getting 49% of white likely voters compared to 48% for Trump.

No Democratic presidential candidate has earned that much support with white voters in the past five decades.

Biden also leads with likely voters who are 65 and older, 51% to 47%, a reversal from 2016 when Trump won them, 52%-45%, according to exit polls.

But a warning sign for Biden: He is underperforming with likely voters of color. While he leads Trump 60% to 34% with nonwhites, that’s a smaller margin than the 74% to 21% Democrat Hillary Clinton won with them in 2016.

(There were too few likely voters to report a breakout of African Americans and Latinos in this survey without the margin of error being too high, but the pollsters noted that the decreased margin for Biden was because of a weakness with Latinos.)

The survey researchers also found that Americans’ votes are pretty locked in. Just 6% of voters were persuadable in the survey, measured as those who are undecided or who support a candidate but might vote differently.


The poll, conducted from Sept. 11 through 16, surveyed 1,152 adults by cell phone and landline for a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points. There were 964 registered voters in the poll for a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points and 723 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

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