The US presidential race is much closer than national surveys suggest, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls in battleground states that show Democrat Joe Biden with only a slim lead over President Donald Trump in three highly competitive states and in a dead heat in three others.
The survey came as US race enters the final stretch with Trump and Biden jostling to lure voters to cast their votes in the Nov. 3 election to decide the future of the country amid fears of foreign meddling and economic meltdown from coronavirus pandemic.
The online state polls, conducted earlier in September and released this week, found Biden and Trump tied among likely voters in Florida and North Carolina. Biden led by 1 percentage point in Arizona, 3 points in Pennsylvania and 5 points in Wisconsin and Michigan.
All six are critical to determining who wins the Nov. 3 election, given their population size and potential to swing to either party. In each of the states, the difference between the two candidates was near or within the poll's sampling error, meaning that neither candidate has a clear advantage.
Nationally, the latest Reuters/Ipsos conducted on Monday and Tuesday put Biden's lead over Trump at 8 percentage points among all likely voters.
Taken together, the state and national surveys show the 2020 election may wind up with the same mixed result as 2016, with the Democrats receiving a majority of the votes but the Republicans winning the Electoral College and the White House.
While Biden has an early advantage in winning the national popular vote, Trump has nearly the same chances of winning the battleground states, and with them enough electoral votes for a second term.
The polls also found some important shifts in opinion this year within the US electorate.
Biden, who emerged from a diverse field of Democratic presidential contenders on the promise that he was the most electable candidate, has been chipping away at Trump's dominance over one of the largest voter blocs in America: whites without a college degree.
Trump does not appear to have been penalized by swing-state voters as much as he has been nationally for his response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Swing-state voters are also more likely to see Trump as better than Biden at managing the US economy.
Support for Biden among non-college whites is up 10 percentage points nationally, when the results of Reuters/Ipsos polling this month are compared with support for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 exit polls.
When asked whom they would support for president, 50% of likely non-college white voters said they were supporting Trump, while 41% were backing Biden. Four years ago, 61% of non-college whites voted for Trump and 31% for Clinton.
This shift is happening too among non-college whites in battleground states. In Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, four in 10 non-college likely white voters said they were backing Biden this year, which is up from 2016 when Clinton was supported by about three in 10 non-college whites in those states.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll shows that 56% of the country disapproves of Trump's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, including 43% who "strongly" disapprove of his performance.
But Trump's handling of the coronavirus does not appear to be hurting him that much in a number of swing states, even with new cases on the rise in Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Trump is also more likely to be perceived in swing states as superior to Biden on the economy and job creation, a message that Trump has spent millions of advertising dollars reinforcing with voters this year in competitive states.
Trump on Thursday,while campaiging in the battleground state Florida, said the country's economic prosperity was riding on the outcome of his Nov. 3 showdown with Biden.
"If you want to save America, you must get out and vote," he told thousands of cheering supporters, most not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, at the outdoor airport rally in front of Air Force One in Jacksonville, Florida.
PUTIN PROPOSES ELECTION NON-INTERFERENCE PACT WITH US
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday proposed concluding a pact with the United States against interfering in one another's elections, just weeks before the US heads to the polls.
Western countries have for years accused Russia of using hackers and internet trolls to sway the outcome of elections, and US intelligence officials have said that it is once again manipulating social media in favour of Trump as it did in 2016.
In a Kremlin statement, Putin called for the two countries to "exchange guarantees of non-interference in each others' domestic affairs including elections, including with the use of information and communication technologies".
He also called for a global pact agreeing not to use such methods to deal "the first blow" in conflicts.
The Kremlin has denied allegations of election meddling and interference and instead accused the Western leaders of waging a disinformation campaign against Russia.