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AARP Battleground Polls Find Trump-Biden Race Still up for Grabs

Surveys show many 50+ voters to vote via absentee ballot, early voting ahead of Election Day

spinner image graphic showing the poll numbers for the twenty twenty presidential race in six battleground states

Voters across 11 key battleground states are divided in their support for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the results of new AARP battleground state polls. The surveys also show that with control of the U.S. Senate also hanging in the balance, races in a number of very competitive states remain close.

AARP commissioned two sets of public opinion surveys to gauge how likely voters, especially those 50-plus, plan to vote in the presidential and pivotal U.S. Senate races. In addition, battleground-state voters were polled on how Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis, whether they would get a vaccine if one was available, and whether they are worried that operational reductions at the U.S. Postal Service will prevent their votes being counted.

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Presidential race in play

Likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were asked in the days leading up to and after Labor Day who they would select for president if the election were held then. The results show very tight races in a number of states, particularly those considered key to either Trump or Biden prevailing in the electoral college vote.

For example, in Pennsylvania, Biden is ahead of Trump by 49 percent to 46 percent among all likely voters and ahead 50 percent to 46 percent among voters over age 50. In Florida, Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 46 percent among all voters, while Trump leads Biden 50 percent to 47 percent among the 50-plus electorate. The two candidates are tied at 48 percent in North Carolina among all voters and 50-plus voters. In all those states the presidential race is within the surveys’ margins of error.

A few states show stronger leads for one of the candidates. Trump’s biggest edge came in Montana, where he leads Biden 50 percent to 43 percent among all voters, while Biden has double-digit leads among all voters in Colorado (Biden 50 percent to Trump 40 percent) and Maine (Biden 54 percent to Trump 40 percent).

“To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the football film Any Given Sunday, this year’s Presidential race is a game of inches,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “The election will be decided in a handful of battleground states, and AARP’s survey results show that either candidate can win. One thing that isn’t in doubt is that 50+ voters will cast the majority of ballots. So, candidates need to address their concerns if they want to get across the goal line.”

Voters 50+ split on coronavirus leadership, vaccine

Voters over age 50 in six battleground states were evenly divided when asked whether they support or oppose Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Americans over 50 are considered among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and an AARP poll in the spring found that 62 percent of the 50-plus population was very concerned about the virus, while 70 percent were worried that they or a family member would contract the illness.

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When voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan were asked about Trump’s handling of the virus, there was no consensus. Support for Trump’s performance was strongest in Florida, where 50 percent approved of his handling, and the sharpest criticism of his handling of the crisis came in Michigan, where 59 percent opposed his efforts.

Those results mirror voters’ overall views of the president, said John Hishta, AARP’s senior vice president of campaigns. “It’s a function of where the country is in terms of Trump’s favorable and unfavorable ratings overall,” he said.

Many 50-plus voters in these states are also unsure whether they would agree to be vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine were available to them at no cost. While the majority of voters in those states said they would take the vaccine, the number of those who were not sure ranged from 20 percent in Wisconsin to 28 percent in North Carolina and Michigan. Wisconsin had the largest majority of 50-plus voters — 53 percent — saying they would agree to be vaccinated.

Those results, Hishta said, are the result “of all the uncertainty that people are hearing through the different channels they get their information — through Facebook or Twitter or newscasts. There’s a lot out there in terms of how people describe the vaccine and whether it’s safe or not safe. That just adds to the confusion.”

Absentee, early voting top of mind among 50+ voters

Voters in all 11 states were asked how they plan to cast their ballots this fall, and the impact of the coronavirus clearly came through in their responses.

For example, 75 percent of 50-plus voters in Arizona, 61 percent in both Florida and North Carolina, and 59 percent in Michigan say they plan to vote either via absentee ballot or in person during the early voting period.

“If you look at historical trends, this is a big shift in how people are going to vote,” Hishta said. This change in the way people plan to vote is going to have a substantial impact on how candidates campaign — in addition to the changes the coronavirus has made in electioneering.

“When candidates address constituencies like ours,” Hishta said, “they need to do it now because people are already starting to vote.” We’re not going to have an Election Day, he said; instead it’s “an election fall.”

Strong concerns about U.S. Postal Service

A majority of voters in Colorado (62 percent), Georgia (64 percent), Iowa (57 percent), Maine (63 percent) and Montana (61 percent) all expressed concerns that reductions in U.S. Postal Service operations will prevent their votes from being counted in November.

That makes AARP’s Protect Voters 50+ campaign even more important, AARP officials say. The campaign is designed to help make sure that, even as America continues to deal with the coronavirus crisis, that all voters get the information they need to safely cast their ballot.

“One thing we know is that virtually all older voters plan to vote this year,” LeaMond said. “They want to vote; they want their voices heard and they’re going to find a way to do that that’s safe,” she said. AARP is working in every state to educate older voters on voting options.

Key Senate races close

Here’s a look at what the surveys found among all voters in some key U.S. Senate races:

  • In Arizona, former NASA astronaut, Democrat Mark Kelly (48 percent), leads incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally (45 percent).
  • In Colorado, Democratic former Gov. John Hickenlooper (51 percent) leads incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (46 percent).
  • In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff (48 percent) leads incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue (47 percent).
  • In Georgia’s special election, incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler (24 percent) leads Republican Rep. Doug Collins (20 percent), Democrat Raphael Warnock (19 percent), Democrat Matt Lieberman (10 percent), Democrat Ed Tarver (7 percent); 20 percent of voters are undecided.
  • In Iowa, incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (50 percent) leads Democrat Theresa Greenfield (45 percent).
  • In Maine, Democrat Sara Gideon (44 percent) and incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins (43 percent) are within the margin of error and Independent Lisa Savage polls at 6 percent.
  • In Michigan, incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters (45 percent) leads Republican John James (41 percent).
  • In Montana, incumbent Sen. Steve Daines (50 percent) leads Democratic former Gov. Steve Bullock (47 percent).
  • In North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham (42 percent) leads incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis (39 percent).

How the surveys were conducted

In Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine and Montana, the bipartisan polling firms of Fabrizio Ward and Hart Research did telephone interviews of likely voters from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5. The firms surveyed 800 likely voters oversampling 50+ voters in each state. The margin of error varied among the states but each was less than plus or minus 4 percent.

In Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Benenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group surveyed between 1,200 and 1,600 likely voters from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8. The margins of error were between plus or minus 2.5 percent and 2.8 percent.

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