WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by a 9-point margin among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a key swing state where Biden was born, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll.
The survey finds that Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, get the support of 53 percent of likely Pennsylvania 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 1 percentage point.
Trump gets upside-down job approval from the Keystone State, although he still maintains an advantage on handling the economy. And Biden is doing far better 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, while 52 percent disapprove. And just 44 percent have a favorable impression of Trump, while 54 percent have a negative one.
Unlike Clinton four years ago, Biden — who was born in Scranton and frequently refers to his upbringing there — has 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,” said 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 decrease 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 8 points, according to exit polls.
Among likely voters with college degrees, Biden also leads, 63 percent to 34 percent. And the Democratic ticket leads among women, 59 percent to 38 percent.
Biden has a similar edge among independents, 57 percent to 35 percent.
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The candidates are tied among white voters — a group Trump won by double digits in 2016 in Pennsylvania — at 49 percent. And Biden leads among nonwhite likely voters, at 75 percent to just 19 percent for Trump.
Trump performs best among white evangelicals (79 percent to Biden’s 20 percent), white voters without college degrees (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, at 43 percent to Trump’s 53 percent.
But among white voters who identify as Catholic but don’t practice regularly, Biden leads by 60 percent to 35 percent.
Biden vs. Trump on the issues
As national polls have also shown, Trump’s handling of the economy remains a bright spot for him in Pennsylvania. Fifty-one percent of likely voters choose him as the best candidate to handle the economy, versus 41 percent who choose Biden.
But on the issue of crime, which Trump has made central to his campaign messaging during the civil unrest stemming from protests against racial violence, the candidates are running neck and neck, with 45 percent of voters choosing each as the better manager.
On handling of both the coronavirus and race relations, Biden has double-digit leads.
Still, Trump’s concerns about violence stemming from the protests do appear to have a potential audience. The share of voters who say they are more concerned about the actions of protesters looting or behaving violently 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 47 percent to 42 percent.
What the sample looks like
As Marist College 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 college degrees is 43 percent, while 57 percent don’t have college degrees.
The NBC News/Marist sample of 771 likely Pennsylvania voters was conducted — by cellphone 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.