US election: What do the opinion polls say about the presidential race?

Election signs for different presidential candidates in Florida (left) and Nebraska (right).
Election signs for different presidential candidates in Florida (left) and Nebraska (right). Copyright Right: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, Left: Right: AP Photo/Grant Schulte
By Lauren Chadwick
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The US presidential election is sure to be a close race, but what do the polls say about who's ahead?


The US presidential election is gearing up to be a close race as current president Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden fight for the country's top post.

There's just one week until the much anticipated showdown and the candidates have full schedules trying to win battleground states that are currently viewed as toss ups.

So what does the polling say and how does it compare to the last election?

Biden leads Trump nationally in polls

Former US Vice President Biden has a strong lead in most national polls that have him up several percentage points over incumbent Trump.

A University of Southern California election poll released on Monday had Biden up 11 percentage points nationally, leading 53% to Trump's 42%.

A Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics poll released on Monday also had Biden with a sizeable national lead over Trump, with the Democrat up 7 percentage points.

Last week, a national poll from Quinnipiac University had Joe Biden up 10 percentage points.

"This is the third national survey among likely voters since September that shows Biden with a 10-point lead, as Biden led Trump 52 – 42 percent on both September 2nd and September 23rd," the university said in a press release last week.

Several polling companies also have Democrats up several percentage points ahead of Republicans for overall races including close Congressional races.

Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight gives Democrat Joe Biden an 87 in 100 chance of winning the election but that doesn't necessarily mean that his road to the White House is simple.

How are the candidates faring in key battleground states?

Most US states consistently vote for one or the other party yet there are several US states that are considered battleground states because the race is up for grabs.

The states where Trump and Biden have focussed their campaigns include Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, and Arizona.

Many of these states are seen as key to winning the election.

According to the latest polls by pollster YouGov for CBS News released in the last week, Biden is leading in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by between seven and ten percentage points.

A Fox News poll last week had Biden leading in Wisconsin and Michigan as well. An Ipsos poll from last week has Biden leading in Arizona, which is also viewed as a potential swing state this year.

"Biden seems poised to flip back three key states in the Rust Belt that Trump carried in 2016: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Biden's average leads in those first two states are around 7-8%, while his edge is Pennsylvania is smaller, at about 5%," said J. Miles Coleman at the University of Virginia's Centre for Politics.

There are also several states where polling in 2020 shows a closer race than many would have previously thought. Polls show a tie in Georgia, for instance, which has not voted Democratic in a presidential race since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Also in play is North Carolina which voted narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008, but typically votes right-wing. A YouGov poll for CBS News showed that Biden was up four percentage points in the state.


Polls by both Ipsos and ABC News/The Washington Post also showed Biden leading in the state last week.

Iowa is also seen as a close race in 2020 after voting overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. A Monmouth University poll had Joe Biden up several percentage points last week.

How does this compare to 2016?

Polling in 2016 showed former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton winning in many states that she subsequently lost.

Polls in Michigan in 2016 leading up to the election showed Clinton ahead between one and seven percentage points depending, for instance, but Clinton lost the state.

Clinton also led in 2016 polls in several states that eventually went to Trump including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.


Currently, in these states, Biden is leading by more percentage points than Clinton had been leading by at the same time prior to the election.

"Compared to 2016, Biden has a larger a more consistent lead in national polling over Trump than Hillary Clinton did," Coleman, at the University of Virginia, said. "Ever since June, Biden has had an 8-9 percentage point lead in national polling averages."

Clinton also led nationally in 2016 polling, with FiveThirtyEight predicting that she was more likely to win the election than Trump.

Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote, with Clinton winning nearly three million more votes nationally.

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