Two reputable national polls released Wednesday suggest different trajectories for the presidential race, but agree on where it stands at the end of both main political conventions, as the start of the final sprint to Nov. 3. A poll from Grinnell College and Selzer & Co. shows Democrat Joe Biden with an 8-percentage-point national lead over President Trump, 49 percent to 41 percent — an improvement from Biden's 4-point lead in March. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows Biden up by 7 points, 50 percent to 43 percent, which is much narrower than his 12-point advantage in June.
"Beyond the overall 8-point advantage, this poll shows some areas of underlying strength for the former vice president," said pollster J. Ann Selzer. "Biden holds a wide lead with moderates, 55-33 percent, who are a plurality of the electorate; he benefits from a 10-point lead among independents, who do not lean toward any political party, 44-34 percent." Biden also has a 2-to-1 lead over Trump among suburban women, 64 percent to 31 percent, while Trump flips those numbers among white men without college degrees.
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, gauged that "Biden is no better off at this point" than Hillary Clinton was in 2016. "Hillary was more polarizing and less likable than Biden in terms of the favorable/unfavorable ratings," he said. "However, Clinton had more enthusiasm than Biden does today, which makes the analysis a bit dicey." Clinton went on to win the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots but lost the Electoral College. If the election were held today, though, Biden would win both, Selzer projected.
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The Grinnell/Selzer poll interviewed 827 likely voters by phone Aug. 26-30, and its margin of error is ±3.4 percentage points. The USA Today/Suffolk poll reached 1,000 registered voters by phone Aug. 28-31, and it has a margin of error of ±3.1 points. RealClearPolitics shows Biden with an average 6.5-point lead, 49.6 percent to 43.1 percent, while FiveThirtyEight has Biden up 7.3 points, 50.5 percent to 43.2 percent. Polls typical tighten as the election nears.
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