The pandemic versus the economy defines the presidential contest in two key battlegrounds, with Florida holding firm to its toss-up status while Joe Biden leads slightly in Pennsylvania in the season’s final ABC News/Washington Post polls.
There’s little change in either state. In Florida, Donald Trump has 50% support among likely voters to Biden’s 48%; it was 51%-47% in an ABC/Post poll Sept. 20. Trump won the state by 112,911 votes out of more than 9.4 million cast in 2016.
In Pennsylvania, the race stands at 51%-44%, Biden-Trump, a 7-point advantage for the Democrat; that compares with a 9-point margin late last month. Here, Trump’s 2016 win was even narrower: 44,292 votes out of nearly 6.2 million cast.
Biden owes his standing in Pennsylvania to most of the same groups his campaign relies on across the country. He holds a 14-point advantage among women, compared with an even contest among men; an 18-point lead among independents, a frequent swing voter group that Trump won by 7 percentage points in the state in 2016; and a 28-point lead among moderates.
Biden is competitive among white voters in Pennsylvania — they divide 50%-46%, Trump-Biden — while he wins 76% support from members of racial and ethnic groups in the state. In Florida, by contrast, Trump leads among whites by 20 points. Additionally, boosted by Cuban Americans, he runs competitively among Hispanic voters.
Both states have been spared the worst of the current surge in coronavirus cases, yet these polls, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, show that the pandemic remains a powerful factor. In Pennsylvania, likely voters by 56%-38% say it’s more important to try to control the spread of the virus than to restart the economy; this narrows to 49%-45% in Florida. In both states, Trump wins more than 8 in 10 of those who prioritize the economy, while Biden wins more than 8 in 10 of those focused on stopping the spread.
Approvals and worry
Trump just touches majority approval in Florida for his work in office overall, marking his competitiveness in the state; 51% of likely voters approve of his work in office, 48% disapprove. In Pennsylvania, he’s underwater, 44%-54%. Typically for an incumbent election, these views closely reflect vote preferences.
Trump is boosted in Florida by notably positive ratings for handling the economy, 58%-40%. This works less well for him in Pennsylvania, 52%-46%. These fade to a split decision in Florida on his handling of the pandemic (48% approve, 50% disapprove) and a negative result, 41%-56%, in Pennsylvania.
Trump has urged economic reopening, and indeed Florida lifted all statewide COVID-19 restrictions a month ago. In Pennsylvania, by contrast, masks are mandatory in public places and businesses must operate at reduced capacity indoors.