MCAP Poll: Biden, Warren incur sharp drop in lead over Trump

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

graphBloomberg’s 10-point advantage is largest among Democratic contenders

In the fourth iteration of a poll gauging Erie County voter perception of President Donald Trump, released in September 2019 by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP), Democratic contender Joe Biden held a hefty 14-point lead over Trump while Elizabeth Warren topped him by seven points. In today’s release of the last of five such polls, their leads have all but evaporated, mirroring national trends.

A majority of the voters in this historically blue county that swung red for Trump in 2016 say that if the presidential election were held today, they would choose Michael Bloomberg over Donald Trump (51%-41%). His 10-point lead marks the largest advantage of any of the Democratic contenders.

Like Bloomberg’s lead, Bernie Sanders’ six-point advantage over Trump is outside the margin of error for this poll.  Other leading Democrats, including Biden and Warren, best the president in hypothetical matchups, but their leads are within the margin of error (+/-4.6).

“Less than four years ago, Erie County voters helped Trump win the presidency, so a tightening of the race was entirely expected,” said MCAP Director Joe Morris. “What wasn’t expected is just how quickly Biden’s and Warren’s leads would evaporate. Whether Bloomberg’s lead over Trump proves more durable than Biden’s or Warren’s also will depend on whether he can withstand the scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner.”

In assessing voters’ approval or disapproval of the 14 major issues raised in this series of polls, the most recent poll reflects a majority or plurality approval in only four instances: the economy, terrorism, national defense, and illegal drugs. However, a majority of voters disapprove of his handling of issues including international relations, America’s infrastructure, immigration, health care, gun violence, and the environment. A plurality of voters disapprove of the way he is handling taxes, trade, Social Security, and gun control.

Trump’s inability to best any of the potential Democratic challengers is somewhat surprising given voters’ perceptions of the state of the national and local economies. Historically, voters’ perception of the economy has been among the strongest predictors of the outcome of presidential elections, and Erie County voters’ perception of the economy is significantly more positive than when Trump took office.

Today a solid majority of voters (65%) describe the state of the nation’s economy as “excellent” or “good,” which is up from 58% in September 2019. Only 33% of voters say the state of the nation’s economy is “not so good” or “poor.” Even when it comes to the economy in Erie County, which has for decades struggled to find its way in the postindustrial era, voters have an increasingly positive perception. Although most voters (64%) describe the state of Erie County’s economy as “not so good” or “poor,” the percentage of voters describing their local economy as “excellent” or “good” has increased from 11% in February 2017 to 32% today.

“When it comes to his handling of the economy, voters give Trump high marks,” Morris said. “As long as the economy holds, we can expect a further tightening of the race. If this continues through the summer, it appears Erie County will once again be a battleground county.”