Here and Now 2020

Polls Show Biden Ahead by Single Digits in Wisconsin

Joe Biden leads the president by 5-6 percentage points in the latest UW and Marquette polls.

By Will Kenneally

August 11, 2020

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump

Joe Biden will challenge President Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.

New polls show Joe Biden has a mid single-digit lead over President Donald Trump among Wisconsinites.

Marquette University released a poll Tuesday showing Biden ahead 49%-44%, which came the day after a UW-Madison poll placed Biden ahead 49%-43%.

“That’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen from other high quality surveys over the last few weeks,” said UW-Madison Elections Research Center Director Barry Burden. “Biden has really been in a dominant position in the nationwide vote and in most of the battleground states since about mid-April, when I think things began to turn against Donald Trump.”

Burden said the change coincided with the pandemic and later the protests that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

According to the Marquette poll respondents, Trump has faltered in his handling of the racial justice protests. Thirty percent approved of how he handled them in June, while 32% approve of his handling now. This also comes with a net negative 10 job approval rating for Trump overall, one of the lowest of his presidency in the Marquette poll.

“I think the Trump campaign has struggled a little bit to have a narrative, and Biden has benefited from the trouble that Trump has been in,” Burden said.

Biden’s favorability however, was under water in the Marquette poll with 48% viewing him unfavorably to 43% favorably.

“This is still sort of unusual–until 2016, we had not seen presidential candidates who were both seen as more unfavorable than favorable,” Marquette poll director Charles Franklin said. “Part of this simply reflects partisan polarization. It used to be that the opposing party didn’t hold exceptionally negative views of the other party’s candidate.”

Franklin said however, net negative favorability ratings to not exclude a candidate from winning Wisconsin, as Trump did in 2016.

“[Biden]’s in a little bit better shape than Clinton was,” Franklin said, “but it’s a dynamic process and it could change, especially as we come to the nominating conventions and we kick off whatever kind of unconventional campaign we’re going to see this fall.”

Burden said both the Democratic and Republican parties have significant money and resources to spend in Wisconsin, even if they are not able to maintain full in-person campaign schedules in the Badger State.

Tapping into what those voters might want to see, the UW poll asked Wisconsinites why they decided to support their given candidate. Trump’s position on issues, record and his image as a different kind of candidate appealed to his base. Biden’s policies, values and ability to beat Trump resonated with his.

Franklin added that the economy is a reliable issue the president could tout.

“He is at 51% approval on his handling of the economy, 46% disapproval,” Franklin said. “He’s holding on to that strength, even as people are seeing the economy in a continuing, worsening situation.”

As campaigns and voters look ahead to November, signs point to a competitive race. Burden recalled polling during the 2016 cycle that showed Hilary Clinton ahead of Trump, as well as recent gubernatorial and state Supreme Court elections that were decided by slim margins.

“I don’t think either campaign will give up on Wisconsin,” he said. “I think anyone who looks at the recent history of the state will have to conclude that it’s up for grabs.”

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