Biden leads NewsNation/Emerson College Pennsylvania poll, Trump closing gap


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The latest NewsNation/Emerson College poll of Pennsylvania has good news for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, but finds President Donald Trump inching closer in a state both men want to win.

Former vice president Biden has a 5-point lead, down from a 9-point spread in August. The Democrat’s current advantage outside the margin of error of 3.7%.

The poll was conducted from late Sunday morning until noon Monday, including the time President Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19, but not his return to the White House. As for the president’s illness itself, 66% said it would not affect how they vote.

Spencer Kimball, with Emerson Polling, says half of all voters rate COVID-19 as a “major concern.”

“Those voters are overwhelmingly breaking for Biden, while voters who think the virus is a moderate or minimal concern are breaking for Trump,” Kimball said. “In these last four weeks, both candidates can be expected to continue arguing about the impact of COVID, as this appears to be a major driver for who they will vote for.”

The virus, which has infected the president, the first lady, a number of White House deputies and three Republican senators is not the preeminent issue on the minds of likely Pennsylvania voters, though.

Economy is top issue

The poll said the economy ranks as the top issue with a third of voters selecting it, including 57% of Trump voters. The second issue was a candidate’s response to the pandemic — identified by 19% of voters, including 31% of Biden voters.

Our poll also found 82% of likely Pennsylvania voters — including 64% of Trump voters — think the virus is either a major or moderate threat to public health in this country, with 18% seeing it as either a minor threat or no threat at all.

When asked who had the best plan to recover from the pandemic, 56% selected Biden, while 44% thought that way about the president’s policy. On who’s better able to keep the country safe: Biden had a slight edge.

Approval rating

In Pennsylvania right now, President Trump has a job approval rating of 44%, compared to 52% who disapprove. That’s a two-point improvement from August.

As for the expectation game, our poll found Pennsylvania voters are evenly split — with 50% believing the President will be reelected and 50% saying Biden will win.

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes.

How the NewsNation/Emerson poll was conducted

The Pennsylvania Emerson College/NewsNation poll was conducted October 4-5, 2020. The sample consisted of likely Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, n=688, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.7 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, and education based on 2016 voter turnout modeling. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines (n=316), SMS-to-web texting (n=81) and an online panel provided by MTurk (n=291).

The perception of political polling took a hit after polls in 2016 overestimated support for Hillary Clinton.  As a result, much of the country was surprised when Donald Trump won the election. 

Tune in to NewsNation on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ET)/ 7 p.m. (CT) for full live coverage of the debate.

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