NEW SURVEY: Battleground States Up for Grabs

June 16, 2019

This year, Firehouse Strategies is partnering with the data analytics team at 0ptimus to learn more about the key voters who will elect the next president.

The key battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan are still up for grabs in our latest quarterly survey of the three states most likely to be decisive in the 2020 presidential election.

Since our last survey in March, Trump has slightly improved his position in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while slipping in Michigan. Notably, Trump’s job approval numbers remain underwater in all three states. However, the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, could also be an asset to him on the campaign trail: Her net-favorability ratings are better than her father’s in all three states.

For the Democrats, Joe Biden remains Trump’s toughest competition. In head-to-head contests, the former Vice President currently leads Trump in all three states, while Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg don’t lead Trump in any.  Notably, a majority of voters in all three states oppose beginning impeachment proceedings against Trump — a move supported by several Democratic presidential candidates.

We conducted our survey of 1,687 likely voters through a combination of live landline, live cell, and texts between June 11th and June 13th. A summary of our results is presented below.

Key Findings:

  • General Election Ballot Tests: We asked 2020 likely general election voters a series of head-to-head ballot tests against four of the most prominent Democratic Presidential candidates: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Between the four, Biden tends to overperform compared to the other candidates, while Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are tied or trail in all three states. Given the electoral math, the Democratic nominee likely needs to win most or all of these Midwestern states to win the election.

In Wisconsin, our March poll showed all three candidates tested (which then included Beto O’Rourke) leading against Trump head-to-head. Three months later, the general story still holds, though Biden’s lead has shrunk from a net +12 to +6, and we find Pete Buttigieg down 2 points. In terms of consistency across ballot tests, the Democratic “base” (the percentage of respondents voting Democratic regardless of matchup) is 32% in Wisconsin, while Trump’s “base” is 37%. This is a recurring trend across states- those who say they will vote for Trump are very consistent across ballot tests, while many Democratic-leaning voters fluctuate between supporting the Democrat, a generic third-party candidate, or not being sure.

Our March poll in Michigan showed Donald Trump leading Sanders and O’Rourke while tied with Biden, and this time around we find Biden with a 3-point edge, Sanders tied with Trump, while Warren and Buttigieg trail by 2 and 4 points respectively. We find the Democratic base at 32% here, compared to 39% for Trump.

In Pennsylvania, Trump appears to be maintaining his strength. We found Biden with an 8-point edge in March, and that is now down to 1 point. Sanders trails by 3, while Warren and Buttigieg are significantly behind, garnering only 34% and 32% of the vote at this stage. There is a clear name recognition pattern to these numbers, with Trump staying between 42% and 45% in each ballot test, but the vote share of the Democratic candidates ranging widely. The Democratic base here is only 24%, while Trump’s base is 42%.

    • KEY POINT: Despite losing some ground in WI and PA, Biden still represents the most formidable general election opponent for Trump at this stage. Sanders only prevails in one state and both Warren and Buttigieg fail to surpass Trump’s support in any of the three states, albeit before primary season officially kicks off.
  • Trump’s Weak Job Approval: Despite his 2016 victories among these states’ voters and the current economic conditions, Trump has consistently been underwater in voters’ satisfaction with his job performance as President. We find Trump’s job approval is in the mid-40s in each state, and his disapproval hovers around 50%. Compared to March, Trump is doing slightly better among Wisconsin respondents, while regressing slightly in Michigan (though all movement is within the margin of error). Wisconsin displays the largest shift in net approval at 44-51 (compared to 41-54 in March), followed by Pennsylvania at 46-49 (43-49 in March) and Michigan at 45-50 (47-49 in March).
    • KEY POINT: Trump remains underwater among 2020 voters in these three keys states.
  • Ivanka Trump Favorability: We also asked voters their opinions of Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and Senior Advisor. Across these three states, Ivanka appears to fare better among likely general election voters than her father does. She is net favorable in Pennsylvania at 38-35 and Michigan at 37-36. Wisconsin is the toughest state for Ivanka, as she faces a net disapproval rating of 35-39.
    • KEY POINT: While not by overwhelming margins, Ivanka Trump maintains better net favorability among likely voters in these three states than her father does.  

  • Impeachment: We asked voters in these three states whether they believed Congress should begin an impeachment inquiry against President Trump based on the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Across the board, a majority of respondents opposed impeachment proceedings. This opposition reached 57% in Wisconsin, 56% in Pennsylvania, and 53% in Michigan. Interestingly, despite exhibiting the highest level of Trump disapproval, Wisconsin also demonstrates the highest level of opposition to a Trump impeachment inquiry.
    • KEY POINT: Most respondents in each of these three battleground states oppose impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and Democrats have become disillusioned with following that path.

Methodology: Between 06/11-06/13, we surveyed likely voters in Wisconsin (N = 535), Pennsylvania (N = 565), and Michigan (N = 587) via live landline and cell, and text. Likely voters were defined as registered voters who voted in both the 2012 and 2016 general elections or the 2018 general election, plus the 15% of additional individuals most likely to turnout based on in-house turnout modeling. Margin of error varies by question and segment but is generally ± 4.3 in WI, ± 4.2 in PA, and ± 4.2 in MI for toplines. Sample was weighted by age, gender, and party based on our likely voter universe. Results were then re-balanced based on these cohorts.