But today, Biden leads Trump in these Great Lake (or Rust Belt) battlegrounds because he’s eating into Trump’s margins among those very groups. These gains have big implications for the electoral college because they suggest Biden’s easiest path to victory may be through these three states.
Post-election estimates aren’t the most ideal comparison to pre-election polling, which would be accurate pre-election polling (something missing from these states in 2016). Like any poll (or poll average), these post-election estimates are subject to error.
Still, the size of Biden’s rise over Clinton in these states is clear enough that it’s well outside the range of any statistical anomaly.
- Michigan: Trump leads by an average of 3 points among White voters. Four years ago, Trump won amongst these voters by 15 points.
- Pennsylvania: Biden is ahead by 3 points with White voters. In 2016, Trump won them by 15 points.
- Wisconsin: Biden’s up by 6 points with White voters. Last election, Trump took them by 7 points.
Obviously, the fact that Clinton underperformed her pre-election polls in these states should give us pause. Amazingly, however, these Rust Belt numbers among White voters are so good for Biden that he’s in a considerably better position than even the final high quality pre-election polling that looked rosy for Clinton in each state.
We can drill down further to examine non-college educated White voters as well. Not every poll provides that crosstab, so I combined the different states to get a large enough sample to compare. Across the six polls that did include a crosstab for Whites without a college degree, the trend is very clear.
Biden’s doing on average 12 points better among Whites without a college degree than Clinton did in the combined sample of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin polls. He’s obviously still trailing among White voters without a college degree, but the margin on average is closer to 10 points in favor of Trump than 20 points.
White voters without a college degree will likely make up a majority of voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’ll be near 60% in Wisconsin. Nationally, Whites without a college degree will only be about 40% of the electorate.
In other words, the shift among Whites and White voters without a college degree we’re currently witnessing in the polls will have a greater impact on the outcome in these key Rust Belt battleground states.
That’s a big deal because Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin combined have 46 electoral votes. If you add those to the 232 in states Clinton won in 2016, you get to 278 electoral votes.
Biden wouldn’t need to win over any other Trump won states in order to win the election.
Were this trend to hold until the election, Biden’s most reliable path to get to 270 electoral votes is in the Rust Belt. Biden’s doing better in all three of these Great Lake states than he is doing in any of the other states Trump won in 2016.