Exclusive: Firehouse/0ptimus 2020 Battleground Survey

March 23, 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.

We kicked off the series in February among likely Democratic primary voters in three early states. This month, we interviewed general election likely voters in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. We surveyed 1,778 likely voters in those states through a combination of live landline, live cell, and texts between March 19th and March 21st, 2019. (Full methodology below.)

Key Findings:

Bernie, Beto & Biden vs. Trump

  • We asked 2020 likely general election voters a series of head-to-head ballot tests against three of the Democratic Presidential candidates drawing the most media attention: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke. Biden pulls the strongest lead against Trump, with Bernie behind him, and Beto trailing behind.

  • In WI, Dems perform the best against Trump across all three; Biden has the largest lead at +12, while Bernie maintains +6 and Beto comes in at +3 over Trump. The leads weaken in PA; despite Biden at +8 over Trump, Bernie becomes neck-and-neck with Trump at just +1, and Trump overtakes Beto by 6. MI looks better for Trump overall, where he ties with Biden and earns a 2 pt lead over Bernie and an 8 pt lead over Beto.

KEY POINT: Right now, Biden is the strongest against Trump compared to Bernie and Beto. The Democrats perform the best against Trump in Wisconsin, while Trump holds well in Michigan. Biden leads Trump in Pennsylvania, while Trump beats Beto and is within margin of error Bernie there.

Trump’s Weak Job Approval

  • Despite pro-Trump enthusiasm in these states in 2016, many likely 2020 general election voters are not as satisfied with Trump’s job as President as of today. According to our survey, Trump’s job approval is in the 40s in each state, and on average, 51% of voters in the three states disapprove. Wisconsin pulls the lowest net approval at -13, followed by Pennsylvania at -6, and Michigan coming closest at only -2.

KEY POINT: Trump is underwater among 2020 likely general election voters in these three key states, especially in WI.

Obama-Trump Voters Sticking with Trump

  • The voters who picked Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 in these three states will likely decide who wins in 2020. Across all three states, Obama-Trump voters overwhelmingly side with Trump in the head-to-head ballot tests. In Michigan, 84% of Obama-Trump voters choose Trump regardless of the Democratic opponent. In Pennsylvania, 70-79% support Trump depending on matchup (Biden fares the best, and Beto fares the worst). And even in Wisconsin, roughly two-thirds side with Trump over Democratic opponents.

KEY POINT: Trump is maintaining his support with critical Obama-Trump swing voters.


Methodology: Between 03/19-03/21, we surveyed likely voters in Wisconsin (N = 616), Pennsylvania (N = 632), and Michigan (N = 530) 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 ± 4.1 in WI, ± 4.0 in PA, and ± 4.5 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.