Trump Gains on Biden in Florida, Making Battleground State a Dead Heat

By paul owers | 9/15/2020

After falling behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden in May, U.S. President Donald Trump has surged back into a virtual dead heat in the battleground Sunshine State, according to a statewide survey of registered Florida voters by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative  (FAU BEPI).

Biden holds a 49 percent to 46 percent lead, with 5 percent undecided, but those undecideds are breaking for Trump 4:1, resulting in a statistical tie at 50 percent for each candidate.

Trump led Biden in FAU’s March poll, 51 percent to 49 percent, but Biden gained a 53 percent to 47 percent advantage in May.

Roughly 9 percent of Florida voters surveyed said there is a chance they will change their minds, while 97 percent of Trump voters and 94 percent of Biden voters insist they will stick with their choices.

Among Trump voters, 72 percent said they are extremely excited for the election, while 60 percent of Biden supporters expressed the same sentiment.

Many analysts believe Trump must win Florida to regain the White House in November.

“Florida continues to be too close to call, but the enthusiasm still favors President Trump, and that could be the difference,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., a professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. “With only 5 percent of the voters undecided, this election is less about persuasion and more about turnout.”

The economy was the top issue for voters surveyed at 37 percent, with the coronavirus second (17 percent) and healthcare third (14 percent). Racism/equality ranked fourth at 10 percent, just ahead of foreign policy (9 percent). No other issue eclipsed 5 percent.

“The economy is still the No. 1 issue for voters, so that might explain why Trump has seen a bounce-back in the state,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of FAU BEPI in the College of Business.

The economy is the most important issue for 60 percent of Republicans and 37 percent for Independents. But the economy received top billing for just 15 percent of Democrats, with 27 percent saying the coronavirus was the most important issue.

Regardless of the winner, 82 percent of voters said they are confident in the election results, with 14 percent not so confident and 4 percent not confident at all.

Most voters polled expect to hear the results on Election Day (38 percent), while 31 percent expect to hear the next day. Only 9 percent think it could take longer than a week to determine a winner.

When it comes to how they will vote, 45 percent of survey respondents said they plan to do so by mail before the election, while 31 percent said they plan to vote in-person early. Twenty-four percent of voters said they plan to vote in-person on Election Day.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval rating has improved in his new home state since May, with 47 percent of respondents approving of his job performance, up from 43 percent. But his disapproval rating also increased, to 49 percent from 46 percent in May.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval rating declined again to 43 percent, from 51 percent in May and 54 percent in March. His disapproval rating increased to 43 percent, compared with 32 percent in May and 20 percent in March. 

The survey of 631 registered Florida voters was conducted Sept. 11-12. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points. It is important to remember that subsets carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. The data was weighted by ethnicity, age, education, party affiliation, region and gender, based on 2016 Census Voting and Registration modeling. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines and cell phones provided by Aristotle Inc. and an online panel provided by Dynata. The polling results and full cross-tabulations are available by clicking here.