WASHINGTON — Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by a 9-point margin among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a key swing state and home to Biden’s birthplace, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds.
The survey finds that Biden and running mate Kamala Harris get the support of 53 percent of Pennsylvania likely voters, compared with 44 percent who back Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In 2016, Trump barely bested Hillary Clinton in the state by less than one percentage point.
The result comes as Trump faces an upside-down job approval in the Keystone State, although he still maintains an advantage on handling the economy. And it comes as Biden enjoys a far better performance among suburban voters and whites than Clinton did four years ago.
Forty-five percent of likely voters say they approve of the job the president is doing in the White House, while 52 percent disapprove. And just 44 percent have a favorable impression of Trump, while 54 percent have a negative one.
But in contrast to Clinton four years ago, Biden — who was born in Scranton, Penn. and frequently references his upbringing there — enjoys a net positive favorability rating with Pennsylvania voters. Fifty percent view him favorably, while 46 percent view him negatively.
“With Trump’s job approval rating and favorability upside down, he needs to reshuffle the deck to close the gap,” says Lee M. Miringoff of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey. “Trump’s best bet is on the economy to do just that.”
Biden gets a boost from suburban voters, pulls even with whites
As the president continues to claim that the Biden-Harris ticket would allow unchecked crime and decreasing property values in America’s suburbs, suburban and college-educated voters are boosting Biden’s margins in Pennsylvania.
Among suburban likely voters, Biden leads Trump by nearly 20 points, 58 percent to 39 percent. That’s a significant flip from 2016, when Trump won suburban voters in the state by about an eight-point margin, according to exit polls.
Among likely voters with a college degree, Biden also leads 63 percent to 34 percent. And the Democratic ticket also enjoys a nearly 20-point advantage with women, 59 percent to 38 percent.
Biden also has a similar edge with independents, 57 percent to 35 percent.
The two candidates are tied with white voters — a group Trump won by double digits in 2016 in Pennsylvania — 49 percent to 49 percent. And Biden leads with non-white likely voters, 75 percent to just 19 percent for Trump.
Trump performs best with white evangelicals (79 percent to Biden’s 20 percent), white voters without a college degree (60 percent to Biden’s 38 percent), rural voters (also 60 percent to Biden’s 38 percent), and men (51 percent to Biden’s 46 percent).
Biden, who is a practicing Catholic, trails Trump among white Catholic voters in the state overall, getting 43 percent to Trump’s 53 percent support.
But among white voters who identify as Catholic but don’t practice regularly, Biden leads, 60 percent to 35 percent.
Biden vs. Trump on the issues
As national polls have also shown, a bright spot for Trump in Pennsylvania remains his handling of the economy. Fifty-one percent of likely voters choose him as the best candidate to handle the issue, versus 41 percent who choose Biden.
But on the issue of crime, which Trump has made central to his campaign messaging amid the civil unrest stemming from protests against racial violence, the candidates are running neck-and-neck, with 45 percent of voters choosing each candidate as the better manager of the issue.
And on the handling of both the coronavirus and race relations, Biden has a double-digit lead.
Still, Trump’s concerns about violence stemming from the protests does appear to have a potential audience. The share of voters who say they are more concerned about the actions of protestors using violence or looting is slightly larger than the share who say they’re more worried about the actions of law enforcement against two black men — George Floyd and Jacob Blake — who were recently shot by police, by a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent.
What the sample looks like
As Marist works to ensure that its surveys reflect the opinions of hard-to-reach voters, the sample of likely voters is made up of 12 percent from Philadelphia, 22 percent from Philadelphia’s suburbs, 17 percent from the northeastern part of the state, 22 percent from central Pennsylvania and 28 percent from the west.
The likely voter sample is 38 percent Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 24 percent independents.
The share of the sample with a college degree is 43 percent, while 57 percent do not have a college degree.
The NBC News/Marist poll of 771 likely Pennsylvania voters was conducted – by cell phone and landline interviews – from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.
The poll interviewed a total of 1,147 Pennsylvania adults, with an overall margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.