Debate expert Robert Barnett joins ‘The Daily Briefing’ to preview Thursday’s showdown in Nashville, Tenn.

Donald Trump holds a narrow advantage in Ohio, while voters in the three battleground states that put him over the top in 2016 prefer Joe Biden, according to Fox News statewide surveys of likely voters. 

Biden leads by 12 points in Michigan (52-40 percent), 5 points in Pennsylvania (50-45 percent), and 5 points in Wisconsin (49-44 percent).  Biden’s advantage is outside the margin of error in Michigan, but not Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  Trump carried each of these states by less than a percentage point in 2016. 

Trump’s 2016 victory in Ohio was by a wider 8-point margin, which is higher than his current 3-point edge in the Buckeye State (45 percent Biden to 48 percent Trump).  That’s a reversal since last month, when Biden was ahead by 5 points in Ohio (50-45 percent). 

The number who favor Trump’s re-election lags his 2016 vote share in each state. 

Biden’s leads are not insurmountable.  Trump has improved his standing in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin since September. 

However, few voters are up for grabs.  In each of the four states, fewer than 10 percent are undecided or support a third-party candidate.  Plus, roughly equal majorities of Biden and Trump supporters, about 8 in 10, are extremely committed to their candidate. 

It’s tough to overstate how important women voters are to Biden.  They prefer him by 19 points in Michigan, 6 in Ohio, 12 in Pennsylvania, and 17 in Wisconsin. And he trounces Trump among suburban women:  Michigan +35 points, Ohio +18, Pennsylvania +29, and Wisconsin +21.

Trump is the choice among rural voters in each state — by wide margins in Ohio (+27 points) and Pennsylvania (+21), and smaller spreads in Michigan (+11) and Wisconsin (+6).   In 2016, he won rural voters nationally by 25 points, according to Pew Research Center validated voter data.

White men without a college degree were an important constituency for Trump four years ago, and they are still big supporters.  He leads by double-digit margins among this group in all four states (by 15 points in Michigan, 35 in Ohio, 19 in Pennsylvania, and 18 in Wisconsin).  The president’s lead is nearly as large among white men overall.  He’s up by 12 points in Michigan, 24 in Ohio, 13 in Pennsylvania, and 19 in Wisconsin.

“Trump is polling behind his 2016 support, but remains competitive across these crucial rust-belt states,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox News survey with Republican Daron Shaw.  “Lower than expected turnout among young people combined with robust rural turnout could easily put Ohio in Trump’s column again, and possibly Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, too.” 

Seniors in Ohio (+6 points) and Pennsylvania (+1) favor Trump, while they pick Biden in Michigan (+13 points) and Wisconsin (+14). 

Voters under age 35 back the Democrat:  Michigan (by 34 points), Ohio (+17), Pennsylvania (+33), and Wisconsin (+25).

Party loyalty is also a factor.  In Michigan, by 8 points, more Democrats support Biden (94 percent) than Republicans back Trump (86 percent).  The loyalty gap is 9 points in Wisconsin, with 96 percent of Democrats for Biden compared to 87 percent of Republicans for Trump. 

On the economy, more trust Trump to do a better job than Biden in Ohio (by 11 points), Pennsylvania (+5), and Wisconsin (+7), while the two tie in Michigan. 

By larger spreads, voters prefer Biden to handle coronavirus in all four states:  Michigan (by 17 points), Ohio (+6), Pennsylvania (+11), and Wisconsin (+13). 

“The economy is still the key to success for Trump,” says Shaw. “Voters don’t rate him very favorably on handling the pandemic and that’s a big drag on his re-election chances right now.”

Meanwhile, Biden is more popular than Trump.  The former vice president gets net positive favorable ratings in Michigan (+8 points), Ohio (+2), Pennsylvania (+9), and Wisconsin (+3).   Trump’s ratings are net negative by 13 points, 3 points, 8 points, and 9 points respectively. 

In the Michigan Senate race, incumbent Democrat Gary Peters has a 49-41 percent edge over Republican John James.  Three percent back a third-party candidate and five percent are undecided.  Peters’ advantage is outside the survey’s margin of error.  More of those supporting Peters (92 percent) also back Biden than James supporters (86 percent) favor Trump. 

Pollpourri

More voters disapprove than approve of President Trump’s job performance in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  In Ohio, they split: 50 approve vs. 49 disapprove.

Voters in each state give their governor better ratings than the president.  For Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, 61 percent approve, while 36 percent disapprove.  Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has the highest ratings of the four: 73 percent approve vs. 23 percent disapprove.  Pennsylvania voters rate Gov. Tom Wolf positively (58-38 percent).  In Wisconsin, voters divide over the performance of Gov. Tony Evers (49-46 percent).

Across these rust-belt states, most voters casting their ballot by mail support Biden (between 61-73 percent), while over half of those voting in person go for Trump (between 55-59 percent).

Conducted October 17-20, 2020 under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), these Fox News surveys include interviews with likely voters in Michigan (1,032), Ohio (1,018), Pennsylvania (1,045), and Wisconsin (1,037) randomly selected from statewide voter files, who spoke with live interviewers on landlines and cellphones.  In each state, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the total sample of likely voters. 

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.

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