Polling Shows Presidential Race Close in Battleground States

September 18, 2020

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • Presidential Polling: FL; ME; MN; NH; SC; WI
  • Primaries: Delaware results
  • GA-Sen-B: Democrat Matt Lieberman in range
  • KY-Sen: Leader McConnell pulling away
  • SC-Sen: Democrats investing in close race
  • AR-2: Becoming closer
  • OK-5: Conflicting polls


Florida:  Two more Florida polls were released this week showing a tightening of the race between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.  Both Monmouth and Florida Atlantic Universities were in the field during the September 9-13 period. Monmouth (9/10-13; 428 FL likely voters; live interview) found Mr. Biden leading 50-45% under their high turnout model, and an almost identical 49-46% if the voter participation factor proves lower.  FAU (9/11-12; 831 FL likely voters; live interview and online) finds the two candidates tied at 50-50% when all respondents are pushed to make a decision.  Once again, Florida is a very close state but a must-win for President Trump.

Maine:  The new Quinnipiac University poll (9/10-14; 1,183 ME likely voters; live interview) finds former Vice President Joe Biden posting a huge 21-point lead over President Trump, 59-38%.  The data suggests that the President would even lose the 2nd Congressional District, which should provide him an important extra electoral vote.  In ME-2, Mr. Trump would trail Mr. Biden, 53-44%.  No other Maine survey has returned numbers as stark as these.  Therefore, we can expect to see more polling conducted here in order to confirm this trend or provide a different result.

Minnesota:  Looking at the Minnesota race where recent polling has suggested a tightening of the presidential contest within the state, NYT/Siena (9/8-10; 814 MN likely voters; live interview) sees Joe Biden holding a stronger lead over President Trump than other current data.  Here, the Biden margin is 50-41 percent.  Even with this spread, the volatility seen in Minnesota suggests we will see further competition in the closing weeks.

Morning Consult also released their new data. While NYT/Siena and other polls have shown a widening in Mr. Biden’s standing to the high single-digit range, the MC track (9/4-13; 813 likely voters; selected online panel) sees only a four-point split between the national candidates with Mr. Biden maintaining a 48-44% edge.  Minnesota is a must-win for the Democratic nominee.

New Hampshire:  The New York Times/Siena College polling series also looked at New Hampshire (9/8-11; 445 NH likely voters; live interview) where a tight race again appears to be unfolding that looks potentially similar to what we witnessed in 2016.  In that election year, Hillary Clinton carried the state by just 2,738 votes (46.8 – 46.5%) from 744,296 ballots cast.  According to the NYT/SC results, former Vice President Joe Biden maintains only a three-point, 45-42%, edge over President Trump.

North Carolina:  CNN (conducted through the SSRS statistical firm; 9/9-13; 787 NC likely voters; live interview through landline and mobile phones) just completed a new Tar Heel State survey and finds Joe Biden topping President Trump, 49-46%, which is statistically within the polling margin of error.  The data tracks with other published polls and actually places both candidates in position to win the state. North Carolina, however, is a must-win domain for President Trump.

Wisconsin:  While neighboring Minnesota has been polling closer lately, the ABC/WP survey (9/8-13; 615 MN likely voters; live interview) finds former Vice President Joe Biden opening up a much larger 57-41% lead over President Trump.  This is inconsistent with other recent data (five polls) that found the margin ranging from four to nine points.  It’s also seemingly at odds with ABC/WP’s own findings in Wisconsin.  The survey here (9/8-13; 605 WI likely voters; live interview) gives Mr. Biden a six-point, 52-46% lead, which is consistent with other polling.

Primary Results

Delaware:  The First State was among the last to hold their statewide primary, and we see Republican Party endorsed attorney Julianne Murray scoring a 41-35% win over state Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Magnolia) in the gubernatorial nomination election.  Ms. Murray will now challenge first-term Gov. John Carney (D) who is a heavy favorite to win re-election in November.  Mr. Carney was re-nominated in the Democratic primary with 85% of the vote.

In the Senate race, conservative activist Lauren Witzke was a 57% winner in the Republican primary and she now advances into a general election contest opposite Sen. Chris Coons (D) who runs for a second full term after serving the balance of former Vice President Joe Biden’s last US Senate term.  Teacher and actor Lee Murphy is now the Republican nominee against sophomore Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Wilmington).  Both Sen. Coons and Rep. Blunt Rochester are prohibitive favorites in November.


Georgia:  Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman, son of former Connecticut Senator and 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, released his HarrisX poll that was conducted at the end of August (8/20-30; 1,616 GA registered voters).  Mr. Lieberman’s point in releasing the findings was to show that he was only three percentage points behind Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock, 16-13%, in the jungle primary survey.  The data also showed, however, that neither would qualify for the January 5th runoff election as Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) would be the two who advance at 26 and 21%, respectively.

Kentucky:  Quinnipiac University also sampled the Kentucky electorate (9/10-14; 1,164 KY likely voters; live interview administered by the RDD firm) and sees a much different result than from their Maine data.  In the Bluegrass State race, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) leads retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot Amy McGrath (D), 53-41%, despite the latter raising almost $50 million for the race to date.

Maine:  The aforementioned Quinnipiac University survey (see Presidential section: Maine, above) also finds Sen. Susan Collins (R) badly trailing state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport).  The Q-Poll numbers reveal a 54-42% margin in Ms. Gideon’s favor, far beyond what has been recently published.  As recently as the beginning of September in a Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research survey for AARP (8/30-9/5; 800 ME likely voters) the Gideon margin was only one point over Sen. Collins.  In between the AARP poll and Quinnipiac, the Citizen Data organization (9/4-7; 600 ME likely voters) found the spread to be eight points, 49-41%.

Minnesota:  While several surveys had indicated that former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R) was moving to within the polling margin of error opposite Sen. Tina Smith (D), the latest New York Times/Siena College survey (9/8-10; 814 MN likely voters; live interview) finds a similar Senate partisan division as they did for the Minnesota presidential race.  According to NYT/SC, Sen. Smith expands to a 49-40% margin.

The latest survey comes from CBS News/YouGov (9/9-11; 1,100 MN registered voters; online; weighted) and they find Sen. Smith’s lead at 47-40%.  Her average September advantage is 7.4%, with a median of eight percentage points through the five surveys.

South Carolina:  Responding to several September polls that find the race between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison falling within the polling margin of error, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced yesterday that they will invest “seven figures” into the state to help their party nominee.  According to the Daily Kos Elections website, only one other outside group has entered this race, the Strength in Security PAC who reserved $1.6 million in television time months ago in order to support Sen. Graham.


AR-2:  Hendrix College, a frequent pollster in Arkansas political campaigns, released their new polling data (9/4-9; 698 AR-2 likely voters; live interview) and finds three-term Representative French Hill (R-Little Rock) holding only a 48-46% edge over state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.  The same polling sample finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a surprising 49-45% lead over President Trump in a district that the latter man carried 52-43% in 2016. 

CO-3:  The House Majority PAC, associated with the House Democratic leadership, released the results of their Expedition Strategies poll (9/9-14; 754 CO-3 likely voters; live interview) that finds party nominee Diane Mitsch Bush leading Republican Lauren Boebert by a two point, 46-44%, margin when leaners to both candidates are included.  Ms. Boebert upset Rep. Scott Tipton (R) in the June Republican primary, thus making the seat more competitive in an open situation.  Ms. Bush is the 2018 Democratic nominee who lost to Mr. Tipton, 51-43%.  The Expedition poll found President Trump and Joe Biden locked in a 47-47% tie from a district that the Republican carried, 52-40%, in the 2016 election.

FL-15:  Lakeland City Commissioner and retired Navy fighter pilot Scott Franklin denied freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) re-nomination in August, and now we see the first published poll indicating how he will fare in the general election.  According to the Democratic Greenberg Quinlan Rosner firm survey (9/4-6; 400 FL-15 likely voters), Mr. Franklin is staked to a relatively healthy 49-42% advantage over former television newscaster Alan Cohn (D). 

ME-2:  Last week, we covered the releasing of a LOC Wick Maine 2nd Congressional District late August survey that found freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) leading former state Representative and businessman Dale Crafts (R), 50-44%.  Now, we see a Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research joint poll conducted for AARP (8/30-9/5; 367 ME-2 likely voters) that gives Rep. Golden a much bigger lead, 44-32%, on the first ballot and 53-40% when leaners to each candidate are included.

MI-3:  Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group released their survey of the western Michigan 3rd District (9/8-10; 400 MI-3 likely voters; live interview) and sees Iraq War veteran and grocery store magnate Peter Meijer (R) and attorney Hillary Scholten (D) tied at 41% apiece.  The sample skews left, as the generic ballot test reaches 45D-40R%, in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since Richard Vander Veen won a special election in 1974 to replace Gerald Ford (R), who had resigned the seat to become Vice President.  Mr. Vander Veen was then defeated in 1976 and the seat has remained Republican ever since.  Current incumbent Justin Amash was elected as a Republican but switched to the Libertarian Party.

MN-1:  In 2018, Republican Jim Hagedorn defeated Democrat Dan Feehan by a 50.1 – 49.7% slight margin, a spread of just 1,315 votes from more than 291,000 ballots cast.  A Public Policy Polling survey that included some of their often-used partisan push questions (9/10-11; 885 MN-1 voters; live interview) was just released and sees a virtual 2018 rerun result according to their latest data.  The PPP projection finds both candidates tied with each having a support base of 41 percent.

OK-5:  Again, we see a political campaign where two pollsters test the electorate within basically the same time frame and come away with vastly different conclusions.  The 5th District of Oklahoma is a traditionally Republican seat that Democrats converted in 2018 when now-freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D) unseated then-Rep. Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) in one of the biggest national upsets of that year. 

Normington Petts & Associates, a Democratic polling firm, tested the race immediately after the August 30th Republican runoff election (8/31-9/3; 400 OK-5 likely voters; live interview) and projected Rep. Horn to be leading the new Republican nominee, state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City), by a 52-44% count.  When the Normington Petts poll was in its final stages, the Sooner Poll, a regular Oklahoma media pollster, went into the field with their questionnaire (9/2-10; 318 OK-5 likely voters; interactive voice response system) and saw Sen. Bice actually taking a one-point, 45-44%, lead.  It is likely we will see a hard-fought race here as we enter the final weeks and days of this campaign cycle.

UT-4:  RMG Research, polling for the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah (9/7-12; 800 UT-4 likely voters), just returned their data and shows freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City) holding a slight 45-41% lead over businessman and former NFL football player Burgess Owens (R).  At the end of July, RMG found the race tied between the two men with each attracting 35% support while the survey brandished a large undecided factor.  Even earlier in July, Moore Information found Mr. Owens carrying an eye-opening nine-percentage point advantage.