The final USC Dornsife Daybreak Poll before the Nov. 3 general election confirms that the presidential race has remained stable — despite the chaotic backdrop of an election season coinciding with a global pandemic, racial unrest, continued economic uncertainty, corruption allegations and a president infected with the coronavirus.
The poll, which tracks the national popular vote, shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a 10-point lead (53% to 43%) over President Donald Trump.
The Daybreak Poll was one of the few that got the 2016 presidential election outcome right.
“For me, the big news here is no news,” said Bob Shrum, director of the Center for the Political Future at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “The race remains remarkably stable and if all the ballots are received and actually counted, Joe Biden is likely to win the popular vote by 9 to 11 points.”
Overall, Biden has a distinct advantage in the poll’s measurement of the popular vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s final 2016 margin of roughly 2 percentage points over Trump.
Biden is benefiting from the support of some key demographic groups that were more likely to vote for Trump in 2016 than his Democratic opponent, including seniors, rural voters and those without college degrees.
Trump has also lost ground among men, whites and “other” voters, mainly Asian American and Native American.
White women, who voted for Trump over Clinton by 9 percentage points in 2016, are currently giving Biden a 2 percentage point edge, within the margin of error for that group.
“I’m particularly struck by what I would now call the hidden Biden voters — the non-college-educated women who are voting in greater numbers for Biden than we would have expected based on the 2016 results,” Shrum said.
As it stands now, according to the final USC Dornsife Daybreak Poll, 50% of Republicans who have not yet voted plan to vote on Election Day, compared to 34% of Democrats and Democratic leaners and 48% of independents.
“If Biden’s 2-to-1 lead in our poll holds among early voters, Trump would need a much wider lead among those who vote in person on Election Day than he holds now to win the popular vote,” said Jill Darling, survey director of the Daybreak Poll. “The stakes are high regarding whether all mail-in votes will be counted, and whether voters will show up at the polls and be able to cast their votes.”
Looked at another way, the results indicate that just under half of the voters showing up at the polls on election day will be Republicans, more than a quarter will be Democrats and another 1 in 5 will be independents.
“We may have a red mirage on Election Day, depending on how the television networks handle their exit polling of absentee ballots,” said Mike Murphy, co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future. “If the media just reports county returns in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump’s going to take an early lead and hold it for a while, because none of those states start counting their absentee ballots until Election Day.”