Pennsylvania has a long history of close elections. Will 2020 be an exception?

Most folks who aren’t American historians, don’t know that Thomas Jefferson beat George Washington in 1796 with 50.6% of the vote. And so began Pennsylvania’s long history of close presidential elections. Since 1980, the average winning percentage was 50.4%. Now that’s close!

Since 1980, six Democratic and four Republican presidential candidates have carried the state. Currently, all statewide elected officer are Democrats.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania over Hillary Clinton by 0.17% of the vote. By any way you look at it, Pennsylvania is a certified swing state.

So how does Joe Biden currently measure up to Donald Trump in the Keystone state? In 14 recent independent polls carried out since February, he as an average lead of 3.7%. Below is a graph of all 14 surveys over four months.

The blue line represents Biden’s poll percent (blue dot) and the red, of course, Donald Trump’s. There are only two surveys, both in March within a week of each other, that have Trump leading Biden during this period. And it’s only by 2% (italicized), as shown in the table below.


In addition, a Civiqs’ survey in Pennsylvania has Trump’s job approval at 44.4%. And all the Pennsylvania election polls in April, have Biden leading by an average of 5.4%, which is higher than his average for all 14 surveys by 1.7%.

So to recap, Pennsylvania elected state officers are all Democrats, Trump’s current job approval rating is a net negative of 7%, and Trump trails Biden by an average of 3.7%.

All that would suggest Biden has a significant edge in the state except for one thing: Pennsylvania historically is the Mother of all close elections.

Doctor Politics Diagnosis: History says it’s too close to call.

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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