US election 2020 polls: Who is ahead – Trump or Biden?


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Headshots of Joe Biden and Donald Trump facing each other
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Voters in America will decide on 3 November whether Donald Trump remains in the White House for another four years.

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The Republican president is being challenged by Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, who is best known as Barack Obama’s vice-president but has been in US politics since the 1970s.

As election day approaches, polling companies will be trying to gauge the mood of the nation by asking voters which candidate they prefer.

We’ll be keeping track of those polls here and trying to work out what they can and can’t tell us about who will win the election.

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Biden leading national presidential polls

National polls are a good guide as to how popular a candidate is across the country as a whole, but they’re not necessarily a good way to predict the result of the election.

In 2016, for example, Hillary Clinton led in the polls and won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump, but she still lost – that’s because the US uses an electoral college system, so winning the most votes doesn’t always win you the election.

With that caveat aside, Joe Biden has been ahead of Donald Trump in most national polls since the start of the year. He has hovered around 50% in recent months and has had a 10-point lead on occasions.

Who’s ahead in national polls?

DEMOCRAT

BIDEN

51%

REPUBLICAN

TRUMP

43%

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOct3040506003 NovElection day33 days until30 SepTREND43%51%

average voting intention based on individual polls

Date
BIDEN
TRUMP
Sep 30 50.5 43
Sep 30 50.5 43
Sep 29 51 43
Sep 29 51 43
Sep 29 51 43
Sep 28 50 43
Sep 27 50 43
Sep 27 50 43
Sep 26 50 43
Sep 25 50 43
Sep 25 50 43
Sep 24 50 42.5
Sep 24 50 42.5
Sep 24 50 42.5
Sep 23 50.5 42.5
Sep 23 50.5 42.5
Sep 22 50.5 42.5
Sep 22 50.5 42.5
Sep 22 50.5 42.5
Sep 22 50.5 42.5
Sep 21 51 43
Sep 21 51 43
Sep 21 51 43
Sep 20 51 43
Sep 20 51 43
Sep 19 50.5 43
Sep 19 50.5 43
Sep 19 50.5 43
Sep 18 50 43
Sep 17 50.5 43
Sep 16 50.5 43
Sep 16 50.5 43
Sep 16 50.5 43
Sep 15 50 43
Sep 15 50 43
Sep 15 50 43
Sep 15 50 43
Sep 14 51 43
Sep 14 51 43
Sep 13 51 43
Sep 12 51 43
Sep 12 51 43
Sep 11 51 43
Sep 10 51 43
Sep 10 51 43
Sep 09 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 08 51 43
Sep 07 49.5 42
Sep 06 49.5 42
Sep 06 49.5 42
Sep 05 50.5 42.5
Sep 04 50.5 42
Sep 04 50.5 42
Sep 03 50.5 42
Sep 02 50.5 42.5
Sep 02 50.5 42.5
Sep 01 50 42
Sep 01 50 42
Sep 01 50 42
Sep 01 50 42
Sep 01 50 42
Sep 01 50 42
Aug 31 50 42
Aug 31 50 42
Aug 31 50 42
Aug 31 50 42
Aug 31 50 42
Aug 30 50 41
Aug 30 50 41
Aug 29 50.5 41.5
Aug 28 50.5 42.5
Aug 28 50.5 42.5
Aug 27 50.5 42.5
Aug 26 50 43
Aug 25 50 42
Aug 25 50 42
Aug 25 50 42
Aug 24 50 42
Aug 23 50 42
Aug 22 50 42
Aug 21 50 42
Aug 20 50 42
Aug 19 50 42
Aug 18 50 42
Aug 18 50 42
Aug 18 50 42
Aug 17 50 42
Aug 16 50 42
Aug 15 50 42
Aug 15 50 42
Aug 14 50 41.5
Aug 14 50 41.5
Aug 13 50 41
Aug 12 50 41.5
Aug 12 50 41.5
Aug 11 50 41.5
Aug 11 50 41.5
Aug 11 50 41.5
Aug 11 50 41.5
Aug 10 49.5 41
Aug 09 49 41
Aug 08 49 41
Aug 07 49 41
Aug 06 49.5 41
Aug 05 49.5 41.5
Aug 04 50 42
Aug 04 50 42
Aug 03 50 42
Aug 02 49.5 41.5
Aug 01 49.5 41.5
Jul 31 49.5 41.5
Jul 30 49.5 41.5
Jul 29 49 41
Jul 28 49 41
Jul 28 49 41
Jul 28 49 41
Jul 27 50 41.5
Jul 26 51 41
Jul 25 51 41
Jul 24 51 41
Jul 23 51 41
Jul 22 50 41
Jul 21 50 41
Jul 21 50 41
Jul 20 50 40.5
Jul 19 51 41
Jul 18 51 41
Jul 17 50 40.5
Jul 16 50 40.5
Jul 15 50 40.5
Jul 15 50 40.5
Jul 14 50 40
Jul 14 50 40
Jul 13 50.5 40
Jul 12 50.5 40
Jul 12 50.5 40
Jul 11 49 40
Jul 10 49 40
Jul 09 49 40
Jul 08 49 40
Jul 07 49.5 40.5
Jul 07 49.5 40.5
Jul 06 49 41
Jul 05 49 40
Jul 04 49 40
Jul 03 49 40
Jul 02 49 40
Jul 01 49.5 40.5
Jun 30 49.5 40.5
Jun 30 49.5 40.5
Jun 30 49.5 40.5
Jun 29 50 41
Jun 28 49 41
Jun 27 49.5 40
Jun 26 49.5 40
Jun 25 50 41
Jun 24 50 41
Jun 23 49.5 40
Jun 23 49.5 40
Jun 22 50 41
Jun 22 50 41
Jun 21 50 41
Jun 20 50 41
Jun 19 50 41
Jun 18 50.5 41
Jun 17 50 41
Jun 16 50 41
Jun 16 50 41
Jun 15 49 41
Jun 14 49.5 41.5
Jun 13 49 41
Jun 12 49 41
Jun 11 49 41.5
Jun 10 49 42
Jun 09 49 42
Jun 08 49 42
Jun 07 49 42
Jun 06 49 42
Jun 05 49 42
Jun 04 48.5 42
Jun 03 49 42
Jun 03 49 42
Jun 03 49 42
Jun 02 48 41
Jun 02 48 41
Jun 01 48 42
Jun 01 48 42
May 31 48 41.5
May 30 48 42.5
May 29 48 42.5
May 28 48 42.5
May 27 48 42
May 26 48 42
May 25 48 42
May 24 48 42
May 23 48 42.5
May 22 48 42.5
May 21 48 42.5
May 20 48 42.5
May 19 48 43
May 19 48 43
May 18 49 44
May 17 49 44
May 16 48.5 43.5
May 15 48.5 43.5
May 14 49 43
May 14 49 43
May 13 48 43
May 12 47 43
May 11 47.5 42.5
May 10 47.5 42.5
May 09 47 42
May 08 47.5 42
May 07 47.5 42
May 06 47.5 42
May 05 48 42
May 04 48 42
May 03 47 42
May 02 47.5 41.5
May 01 48 42
Apr 30 47.5 41.5
Apr 29 48 42
Apr 28 48 42
Apr 28 48 42
Apr 27 48.5 42
Apr 26 48.5 42
Apr 25 48.5 42
Apr 24 48 42
Apr 23 48 42
Apr 22 48 42
Apr 21 48 42
Apr 20 48 43
Apr 19 48.5 42.5
Apr 18 48.5 42.5
Apr 17 48.5 42
Apr 16 48.5 42
Apr 15 48 42
Apr 14 48 42
Apr 13 48 42
Apr 12 47.5 42
Apr 11 47.5 42
Apr 10 47.5 42
Apr 09 47.5 42
Apr 08 48 42
Apr 07 48 42
Apr 07 48 42
Apr 07 48 42
Apr 06 49 42
Apr 06 49 42
Apr 06 49 42
Apr 05 48 42.5
Apr 04 48 43
Apr 03 48 43
Apr 02 48 43
Apr 01 48.5 44
Mar 31 49 45
Mar 30 49 45
Mar 29 49 45
Mar 28 49 45
Mar 27 49 45
Mar 26 49 45
Mar 25 49 44
Mar 24 49 43
Mar 24 49 43
Mar 23 50 44
Mar 22 50 44
Mar 21 52 42
Mar 20 52 43
Mar 19 52 43
Mar 18 52 42
Mar 17 52 42
Mar 16 52 43
Mar 15 52 43
Mar 14 52 43
Mar 13 52 43
Mar 12 52 43
Mar 11 51 43
Mar 10 50 43
Mar 09 51 42
Mar 08 51 42
Mar 07 50 43
Mar 06 49 45
Mar 05 49 45
Mar 04 49 45
Mar 03 49 45
Mar 02 49 45
Mar 01 49.5 45
Feb 29 50 45
Feb 28 50 44.5
Feb 27 50 44
Feb 26 49.5 44.5
Feb 25 50 45
Feb 24 50 45
Feb 23 50 45
Feb 22 50 44.5
Feb 21 50 44
Feb 20 50 44
Feb 19 50 44
Feb 18 50 44
Feb 17 51 44
Feb 17 51 44
Feb 16 50 43.5
Feb 15 50 43
Feb 14 50 43
Feb 13 50 43
Feb 12 49.5 45.5
Feb 11 50 44
Feb 10 49.5 43.5
Feb 09 49.5 43.5
Feb 08 49 44
Feb 07 49 44
Feb 06 49 44
Feb 05 50 46
Feb 04 50 45
Feb 03 50 45
Feb 02 50 45
Feb 01 50 44
Jan 31 50 44
Jan 30 50 44
Jan 29 50 44
Jan 28 50 44
Jan 27 50 45
Jan 26 50 45
Jan 25 50 45
Jan 24 50 46
Jan 23 50 46
Jan 23 50 46
Jan 22 50 44
Jan 21 50.5 45
Jan 20 50.5 45
Jan 19 50.5 45
Jan 18 48 46
Jan 17 48 46
Jan 16 48 46
Jan 15 48 46
Jan 14 48 46
Jan 13 48 46
Jan 12 48 46
Jan 11 48 46

63 days until Election day

The BBC poll of polls looks at the  individual national polls from the last 14 days and creates  trend lines using the median value, i.e. the value in the middle of the set of numbers.

See individual polls

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By contrast, in 2016 the polls were far less clear and just a couple of percentage points separated Mr Trump and his then-rival Hillary Clinton at several points as election day neared.

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Which states will decide this election?

As Mrs Clinton discovered in 2016, the number of votes you win is less important than where you win them.

Most states nearly always vote the same way, meaning that in reality there are just a handful of states where both candidates stand a chance of winning. These are the places where the election will be won and lost and are known as battleground states.

Map showing where the battleground states are in the 2020 election. Texas has the largest number of electoral college votes (38) while New Hampshire has the fewest (4)
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In the electoral college system the US uses to elect its president, each state is given a number of votes based on how many members it sends to Congress – House and Senate. A total of 538 electoral college votes are up for grabs, so a candidate needs to hit 270 to win.

As the map above shows, some battleground states have a lot more electoral college votes on offer than others so candidates often spend a lot more time campaigning in them.

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Who’s leading in the battleground states?

At the moment, polls in the battleground states look good for Joe Biden, but there’s a long way to go and things can change very quickly, especially when Donald Trump’s involved.

The polls suggest Mr Biden is ahead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – three industrial states his Republican rival won by margins of less than 1% to clinch victory in 2016.

Latest polling averages in battleground states

Click a column header to sort the table by that column in ascending or descending order
Arizona 48.0% 45.2% Trump by 3.6%
Florida 47.8% 46.7% Trump by 1.2%
Georgia 45.8% 47.0% Trump by 5.2%
Iowa 46.5% 46.0% Trump by 9.5%
Michigan 49.2% 44.0% Trump by 0.2%
Minnesota 50.4% 41.0% Clinton by 1.5%
Nevada 49.0% 43.7% Clinton by 2.4%
New Hampshire 51.6% 43.0% Clinton by 0.4%
North Carolina 47.1% 46.6% Trump by 3.7%
Ohio 49.0% 45.7% Trump by 8.2%
Pennsylvania 49.6% 43.9% Trump by 0.7%
Texas 45.2% 48.4% Trump by 9.1%
Virginia 51.3% 40.3% Clinton by 5.4%
Wisconsin 49.8% 44.3% Trump by 0.8%

Source: Real Clear Politics, Associated Press. Last updated: 1 October

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But it’s the battleground states where Mr Trump won big in 2016 that his campaign team will be most worried about. His winning margin in Iowa, Ohio and Texas was between 8-10% back then but it’s looking much closer in all three at the moment.

Betting markets, however, are certainly not writing Mr Trump off just yet. The latest odds give him about a 40% chance of winning on 3 November, which suggests some people expect the outlook to change a lot over the next few weeks.

But political analysts are less convinced about his chances of re-election. FiveThirtyEight, a political analysis website, says Mr Biden is “favoured” to win the election, while The Economist says he is “very likely” to beat Mr Trump.

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Do polls show who won the first debate?

A composite image showing Joe Biden and Donald Trump during the first presidential debate - 29 September 2020Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Donald Trump and Joe Biden went head-to-head in the first of three planned live TV debates on 29 September.

Many pundits called the debate for Mr Biden and the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher agreed, describing it as “the political equivalent of a food fight” with the former vice-president emerging as the man “least covered in slop”.

But what do the polls tell us? Well we’ll have to wait a few days before the bigger national and state-level polls reflect any changes, but we do have some data from more limited snap polls.

In a CBS News/YouGov poll of people in battleground states who watched the debate, 48% said Mr Biden was the winner while 41% went for Mr Trump – a similar split to the national polling averages. Nearly 70% of people said the debate made them feel “annoyed”.

A snap CNN poll gave Mr Biden a larger winning margin, with 60% of people saying he had won, compared to 28% for Mr Trump. But looking back to the first debate in 2016, a CNN poll then gave a similar winning margin to Hillary Clinton (62%-27%) and we know how that race ended.

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Has coronavirus affected Trump’s numbers?

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines in the US since the start of the year and the response to President Trump’s actions has been split predictably along party lines.

Support for his approach peaked in mid-March after he declared a national emergency and made $50 billion available to states to stop the spread of the virus. But it dropped after that point, even among Republicans.

Chart showing that the majority of Americans do not approve of Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to polls by Ipsos
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The virus is likely to be at the forefront of voters’ minds and one leading model produced by experts at the University of Washington predicts the death toll will have risen to about 240,000 people by election day.

Mr Trump may be hoping Operation Warp Speed, his administration’s vaccine initiative, can produce an “October surprise” – a last-minute event that turns the election upside down.

The chief scientific adviser to the initiative has said it’s “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be ready to distribute before 3 November.

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Can we trust the polls?

It’s easy to dismiss the polls by saying they got it wrong in 2016 and President Trump frequently does exactly that. But it’s not entirely true.

Most national polls did have Hillary Clinton ahead by a few percentage points, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong, since she won three million more votes than her rival.

Pollsters did have some problems in 2016 – notably a failure to properly represent voters without a college degree – meaning Mr Trump’s advantage in some key battleground states wasn’t spotted until late in the race, if at all. Most polling companies have corrected this now.

But this year there’s even more uncertainty than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic and the effect it’s having on both the economy and how people will vote in November, so all polls should be read with some scepticism, especially this far out from election day.

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