Can Biden win back Wisconsin?

Since the mid-20th century, Wisconsin has had a reputation for leaning toward Democratic presidential candidates. Since 1984, when Ronald Reagan won every state but Minnesota, the state has voted Democratic until Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton by less than .8%.

But the Democratic advantage at the Federal level, is starting to show it’s age. In both 2000 and 2004, Al Gore and John Kerry’s victory’s were quite close, but Barack Obama seemed to bring it back to life with a 56% win over John McCain.

Currently, the state’s all five executive offices are Democrats, and all but one were elected since the 2016 Presidential election.

Today, Wisconsin is the poster boy for swing states. So how will Joe Biden do against Donald Trump in 2020? In any attempt to predict the future you need to look at the immediate past. In the chart below, I’ve traced the two candidates percent in each of the 18 polls since January through April 2020.

This is a terrible chart for displaying election results, but it emphasizes how entangled the poll results have been in such a short period of time. (Note: the dates start on the left side of the chart).

Biden (blue) starts out with a lead but soon loses it to Trump. Then Biden pulls ahead and Trump falls back. And so on and so on…The Chart below is a better visual display of how close this race was during the last four months.

After 18 different independent polls, the margin of between the two candidates is just 1%. The average percent for Biden is 45.6% and 44.6% for Trump. I have seen many close polls in my career, but never have I seen 18 different surveys with so little difference.

That said, the last five surveys, all completed in April have Biden leading by an average of 3%.

An additional metric is the presidential job approval rating. According to Civiqs latest survey, Donald Trump’s Wisconsin approval rating is 46% and disapprove is 51%. Morning Consult had Trump upside down by 10%.

So this is what we have in Wisconsin: the latest statewide elections all went Democratic, Trump’s approval rating is terrible, Trump has the edge on incumbency and finally, we have 18 recent independent surveys showing it is a virtual tie. This should be an easy decision, right?

Let’s break it down. Partisan statewide elections are not a particularly good indicator for Presidential elections. Job approval ratings are only good at predicting winning or losing when measured right before the election. And finally, polls become more accurate as we near the election date. That the last five surveys that have Biden leading, could possibly be a harbinger of polls ahead. We will have to wait to see.

Doctor Politics’ Diagnosis: Too close to call for now. We will have to wait for the early summer polls to make a call on this very close race. Stay tuned.

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).

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