MCAP Poll: Erie County voters give Biden 14 points over Trump

Wednesday October 02, 2019

donald trumpWere the presidential election held tomorrow, Erie County voters would choose Joe Biden over President Donald Trump by a margin of 52% to 38%, one of several indicators that Erie may be returning to its historically blue roots.

In a poll released today by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP), other Democratic candidates looking to unseat Trump also got encouraging news. Elizabeth Warren tops Trump 47% to 40% while Bernie Sanders bests the president by a margin of 46% to 41%, while other Democratic contenders are running neck and neck with the incumbent president.

“Numbers like these from a county that turned red for Trump in 2016 should sound alarm bells for the president,” said Mercyhurst University pollster Dr. Joseph Morris. “Given Pennsylvania's important role in the 2016 election, it has become something of a bellwether in this presidential race. Even though it's early and these are registered - not necessarily likely - voters, Democrats have good reason to be optimistic about reclaiming Erie County in 2020.”

Still, Morris noted, “It will be critically important for Democrats to choose the right candidate to challenge Trump. Voters' enthusiasm for their candidate matters for turnout, and in a close election it could be the deciding factor.”

The MCAP poll is the fourth iteration of the same poll charting Erie County voters’ perception of Donald Trump and his performance as president since February 2017.

Biden, Warren, and Sanders’ strong showings in Erie County are in some ways surprising given Erie voters’ perceptions of the national and local economies, Morris said. Historically, how voters see the economy has been among the strongest predictors of the outcome of presidential elections, and Erie County voters’ take on the economy is as positive as it has been since Trump took office.

Even though most voters 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 steadily increased from 11% in February 2017 to 36% today. Likewise, the percentage of Erie voters who say there are “plenty of jobs” in their community increased from 9% to 32% since Trump took office in 2017.

Despite the poll’s positive take on the economy, only 38% of voters in Erie County approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, while a majority, 53%, say they disapprove. Although no single variable can be used to accurately predict the outcome of presidential elections, in nearly every election since the middle of the 20th century, incumbent candidates for President of the United States who had a national approval rating of 49% or higher at the time of the election won reelection, Morris noted.

Erie County voters’ dissatisfaction with the president’s job performance and unfavorable opinion of him may be at least partly due to their perception of the trajectory of the nation. When asked whether they believe the nation is headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track, 59% of those polled say they believe the nation is on the wrong track; 35% say the country is headed in the right direction.

On nearly all the 14 issues addressed in the poll – from trade to social security – the majority of voters disapproved of Trump’s record. The president’s handling of two potentially important issues has been met with steadily increasing disapproval from Erie County voters since 2017: taxes and America’s infrastructure.

Communities like those found in Erie County, which have been hit particularly hard by the decline of the manufacturing sector, are suffering from aging, declining and, in some cases, failing infrastructure. The fact that voters in these communities were a key component of the electoral coalition that swept Donald Trump into office in 2016 means that infrastructure may become a critical issue for him in 2020. Erie County voters who approve of Trump’s handling of America’s infrastructure steadily declined from 45% in February 2017 to 29% today.

For complete poll results, visit the MCAP Polls webpage.