NEWS & Insights

Another Polling Series

Yesterday, we covered the Bloomberg/Morning Consult polling series of the seven key swing states in relation to their current presidential stance. Now, we look at the Emerson College series, conducted in a similar time frame to the aforementioned studies and in an almost identical set of places.

The Emerson polls, conducted for the Democrats for the Next Generation organization, sampled their various respondent universes from June 30th through July 2nd, and questioned 1,000 voters in each of six swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the same as Bloomberg/MC except Emerson did not include North Carolina.

It is important to note that the Emerson series was conducted slightly before the Bloomberg/MC swing state research. The latter group surveyed their seven electorates from July 1-5.

The timing is significant because the Emerson series was fielded immediately after the presidential debate, suggesting the possibility that the Trump-Biden numbers would be more favorable to Trump considering President Biden’s poor performance. Seeing better Biden numbers in the later Bloomberg/MC polls at least from two notable states, Michigan and Wisconsin, indicates that his prospects might improve as time moves forward.

It is important to note that the Emerson pollsters did not include Independent Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. or any of the minor party candidates on their ballot test questionnaire. Their presence has moved the results for both major party candidates, as Bloomberg/ Morning Consult found, and generally Mr. Trump seems to perform slightly better when the minor contenders are included.

The Emerson data series found former President Trump leading in all six tested states. His margin in Arizona was four percentage points, five in Georgia, one in Michigan, six in Nevada, five points in Pennsylvania, and three in Wisconsin.

To review, the Bloomberg/Morning Consult ballot tests found similar results in Arizona (Trump +3), Nevada (+5), and Pennsylvania (+7). Three other states were different: Georgia (Trump +1), Michigan (Biden +5), and Wisconsin (Biden +3).

Once again, both before and after the debate, Mr. Trump continues to lead in the key states of Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. Should this pattern continue, Mr. Trump would convert 33 electoral votes to his column from the Biden 2020 victory map.

The aggregate Arizona-Georgia-Nevada number would leave Mr. Trump two votes short of the 270 national electoral vote figure, the bare minimum needed to win the presidential campaign. This means, of the remaining swing states, along with some outliers such as New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New Mexico that are reporting ballot tests within the polling margin of error, Mr. Trump would win with any one of the states flipping to him and away from Biden.

Therefore, the most interesting state in comparing the two survey series is Pennsylvania. The state had seesawed back and forth between the two candidates through most of the year until the end of April. Since that time, Mr. Trump has enjoyed very small, but consistent leads over President Biden. The two most recent polls, from Emerson and Bloomberg, extend his advantage to 5 and 7 points, the first time he has posted such margins. Looking at the current map structure, winning Pennsylvania would clinch the Presidency for Mr. Trump.

As mentioned previously, the Bloomberg/Morning Consult surveys, taken after the Emerson College polls, are more encouraging for President Biden. This also suggests that the President’s poor debate performance may be getting too much attention on television and in pundit world but is not resonating to the same degree within the voting public.

The fact that the polling data in the key states has not fundamentally moved, with the Keystone State being the early exception, leads to the conclusion that the race is long from over and President Biden’s stance, while highly tenuous today, could get stronger as we move closer to the election and further away from his debate performance.

The media and certain Democratic officials asking the President to remove himself from the ticket has added extra life to the debate performance issue, but that, too, should soon end. If Mr. Trump is to win the election, he must continue to draw the strategic contrast between his position stances and that of the President. What the post-debate data actually shows is that the race is more likely to return to a normal toss-up trend than to usher in a major paradigm change.

We offer this political insights report for your information and not as a predictor or representative of opinions of HBS or its employees.