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Biden leads Trump in Michigan and Nevada, and race is tied in Iowa — CBS News Battleground Tracker poll

Battleground Tracker: Biden leads in Michigan, Nevada; tied in Iowa
Battleground Tracker: Biden leads in Michigan and Nevada, race tied in Iowa 03:22

Most voters in the battleground states of Michigan, Nevada and Iowa feel President Trump set a bad example for the nation during his own recent battle with the coronavirus, handling things in a way they call irresponsible.

More voters say it made them feel angry rather than feel confident, and many even say they were offended. Most voters in Michigan think the Trump administration's policies are making the outbreak worse. And with voters still concerned about getting the virus themselves, large majorities suspect that, as he recovered, the president received better medical treatments than they would.

Meanwhile Joe Biden holds a large advantage over Mr. Trump on being seen as someone who cares about others, draws more favorable ratings for how he handles himself personally and, as in other states recently, would be better on handling the outbreak.

In Michigan, Biden has now drawn even with Mr. Trump on handling the economy, too — which was one measure where the president had enjoyed an edge. 


Biden remains in the lead in Michigan, ahead by six points, and he's up in Nevada by six, and is even in Iowa — a state the president won handily four years ago. 


In Michigan, there's been a rise in the percentage who like how Biden handles himself personally, up from 49% in the summer to 56% now. Just 32% like the way Mr. Trump handles himself personally. On this, the president's numbers are similarly negative today as they were in the summer. 


Most voters across the states say Biden cares about other people, his best trait of the ones asked about — roughly two-thirds see him that way. 


Of the qualities tested, Mr. Trump fares best on being labeled a strong leader. Nearly all Republicans think he is, and many independents do as well. And this is one area where he does slightly better than Biden in Iowa and Nevada.


The president's handling of his own battle with the coronavirus has resonated with Republicans, who are already strongly behind him. Republicans think the president acted responsibly, set a good example, and that the lesson to be drawn from his illness is that anyone can get the virus, regardless of what precautions they take. The president recently said not to let the virus "dominate your life" — more than eight in 10 Republicans think it is good he said that.


But it's a very different reaction from Democrats and independents. Most feel the president set a bad example for the country, and that the administration handled the outbreak at the White House irresponsibly. Most of them see a cautionary tale, where the president's case was an example of how people who don't take precautions are more at risk. And majorities did not like it when the president said people shouldn't be afraid of the virus and let it dominate their lives.

Democrats and independents express some skepticism about the information they are getting from the administration regarding Mr. Trump's health. Most feel the administration is making his health sound better than it actually is. Republicans, on the other hand, believe the public is getting an accurate description of the president's health. 


In each of the battlegrounds we've polled, including these three, more voters think Biden would do a better job than the president in handling the coronavirus outbreak.


The issue of the economy has largely been an advantage for the president, but most voters in Michigan and Nevada say their state's economy is in bad shape, and he may be paying some price for that. In Michigan, he and Biden are even on who would handle the economy better. In other battleground states we've polled the president has had an edge on this issue.

Mr. Trump leads Biden by just two points on the economy in Nevada. In Iowa, where the race is tied, voters have a more positive view of their state's economy and think Mr. Trump would handle the issue better than Biden by a wide margin, particularly those who feel Iowa's economy is good. 


Looking ahead, if Biden were to be elected, his voters in these states say they would foresee a lessening of controversy in day-to-day U.S. politics. If Mr. Trump were to be reelected, Biden's voters think there would be more controversy. Independents in Michigan who think Biden would bring less controversy are voting for him by more than a 4 to 1 ratio. Most of Mr. Trump's voters think there will be the same amount if the president is reelected.

Asked which person they'd prefer to see on TV and in the news for the next four years, in Michigan, Biden was preferred, by 55-45%, closely related to vote. As in many other states, more are backing Biden mainly to oppose Mr. Trump than because they like Biden.


Election during a pandemic

More than seven in 10 voters in each of these states are at least somewhat concerned about contracting the coronavirus, and this concern is related to their choice for president. Concern remains higher for Democrats than Republicans. Those very concerned about the coronavirus cite it as a major factor in their vote — ahead of the economy — and they are backing Biden over Mr. Trump. A large majority of those very concerned say the Trump administration deserves blame for making the outbreak worse. 


The virus is impacting not only who they are casting their vote for but how they are casting it.  More of those most concerned about the virus say they plan to vote by mail, rather than in person, and most of those who are doing so say they've usually voted in person in the past. 

As in other battleground states, we continue to see a large proportion of the electorate overall planning to vote by mail, and partisan splits over it: Democrats prefer voting by mail, Republicans in person.


Most voters think the process of voting in their state is easy, but some groups find it easier than others. More Republicans and older voters say it's very easy, while fewer Democrats and younger voters say that. This could be instrumental in who gets to cast a ballot. 

For in-person voting, there's been controversy after the debate over whether the president would encourage supporters to act as poll watchers. Half his backers think he should make those encouragements, and the more conservative among them are more likely to feel this way.


In Michigan, Biden leads with independents, college-educated voters

Mr. Trump is getting strong support from those in his own party, but Biden is currently leading among independents in Michigan, a group that backed Mr. Trump by 16 points four years ago. Independents have decidedly negative views about the way the president has handled his experience with the coronavirus. Most think he acted irresponsibly and, like voters overall, think Biden would better handle the outbreak than Mr. Trump.

One of the president's economic ratings has slipped among independents, with fewer of them now saying the administration's policies are helping the economy recover (43%) than said so in the summer (49%). And Biden and Mr. Trump are even among Michigan independents on who would do better job handling the economy. 


As we've seen in other key states, Biden is doing well with White voters with college degrees in Michigan, a group Mr. Trump won in 2016. White voters without college degrees are supporting the president in large numbers, but Biden's support is a bit higher than Clinton's was four years ago. Biden has a double-digit lead with women here — a bit wider than Clinton's in 2016. The president has the edge with men, although a more narrow one than four years ago.


Why it's close in Iowa

Mr. Trump won Iowa by 10 points in 2016, after the state voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Today, we find the race tied. Biden is doing better than Hillary Clinton did among college-educated voters, a group Mr. Trump narrowly won. Biden has a double-digit advantage with these voters now. 


Biden is also cutting into Mr. Trump's margins with men. Biden currently trails the president by nine points among men, a group that Mr. Trump won by 28 points four years ago. 

But Biden has not pulled ahead in this state, since Mr. Trump still has a large advantage among voters without a college degree, even if Biden has made some gains. He also continues to get strong support from White evangelicals, a group that made up a third of Iowa's electorate in 2016. And while more Iowa voters think Biden would do a better job handling the outbreak than Mr. Trump, the gap between the two candidates is more narrow here than in Michigan and Nevada. 

Nevada: Boosted by Hispanic voters and anti-Trump vote

Biden leads Mr. Trump by a wide margin among Hispanic voters in Nevada, a group that made up nearly one in five voters in 2016. Most Hispanic voters feel the Trump campaign is paying too little attention to the needs and concerns of Hispanic people, while they think Biden is paying the right amount of attention.


There is strong anti-Trump sentiment among Biden voters in Nevada. Six in 10 say they are voting mainly to oppose the president, rather than because they like Biden, among the highest in any battleground state. Still, 8 in 10 of these voters say their support for Biden is "very strong" and that they are very motivated to vote. 

Senate races: Democrats have the edge

Democrats are defending a U.S. Senate seat in Michigan this year, while Republicans are playing defense in Iowa. In Michigan, incumbent Gary Peters is currently leading Republican challenger John James by three points.


In Iowa, Republican Senator Joni Ernst is down four points to her challenger, Democrat Theresa Greenfield.

In each of these Senate races, the Democratic candidate is getting strong support from Democrats and leads among independents. Ernst, in Iowa, is currently getting slightly less support from Republicans (86%) than Greenfield is from Democrats (93%).


These surveys were conducted on behalf of CBS News by YouGov between October 6-9, 2020. They are based on representative samples of 1,048  registered voters in Iowa, 1,215 in Michigan and 1,052 in Nevada. Margins of error for registered voters are ±3.5 points in Iowa, and ±3.2 points in Michigan, and ±4.1 points in Nevada.





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