A lot happened this week, but the election horserace is nearly unchanged

October 14, 2020, 3:20 PM GMT+0

The presidential horserace – even after two debates, a presidential COVID-19 infection and the start of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing that could have a monumental impact on the Court and American politics – remains where it has been for weeks: the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden remains clearly in front of President Donald Trump.

In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, he holds a ten-point lead among likely voters. Last week, his lead was nine points.

Among likely voters, those under 45 years old give the former vice president a sizable lead. Four years ago, older voters were a major driver of support for now-President Trump. Now older voters are closely divided.

The large Biden lead among younger voters, however, is limited in its impact on the campaign. Nearly one in four of all registered voters under the age of 45 are either unsure of their vote or claim that they will not vote at all this year, muting that age group’s power at the polling place.

Biden leads in every region but the South. He holds a three-point lead among men who are likely voters (45% vs 48%) but is ahead by 15 points with women (40% vs 55%).

The election choices (among those who have made one) appear to be set in stone. Fully 97% of those who have made a choice say their minds will not change, leaving just 3% who could conceivably be wooed by the other party. On top of this, 93% say voting for President this year is very important.

Not only that, but Americans are voting early – either by mail or by voting early in person (as evidenced by long lines on the first day of early voting in Virginia and Georgia). Two-thirds of likely voters in this poll say they will cast their ballot before election day, either by mail or in person at an early polling location.

As had been expected, that early vote clearly favors Joe Biden. Eight in ten of his supporters say they will vote before election day, something only half of the President’s supporters will do. In this poll, those who claim they already have cast their vote favor Biden by more than two to one, 68% to 29%. The President’s lead in enthusiasm (58% of his voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about casting a ballot this year, compared with 48% of Biden voters saying that) may not help him if Biden voters turn out as they appear to be doing.

Biden’s lead has been helped by a strong performance by his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris.

Harris is also the most likely of the four candidates to be viewed as a strong leader. Six in ten of likely voters (59%) describe her as a strong leader, including 63% of female likely voters. Only about half of likely voters say each of the three male candidates is a strong leader.

Nearly one in five likely voters who were attentive to last week’s vice-presidential debate weren’t sure which candidate won. Harris was the winner according to 44% of viewers, while 38% chose Pence.

Many voters aren’t yearning for more debates. With this week’s debate canceled and the third presidential debate not yet confirmed, less than half of likely voters say there should be more debates before the November election. A third appear to be happy to forego any more debates.

The willingness to eschew the debates is particularly strong among the Democrat supporters. By a 10-point margin (46%-36%), Biden’s voters would be happy to have no more debates. But six in ten of the President’s voters want more of them.

Among those who would like to have more debates, Biden voters favor virtual meetings, not in person ones, by 36% to 9%. Trump supporters not only want to have more debates, but they favor in-person debates over virtual ones by more than ten to one (64% vs 6%). In this they are taking the same position President Trump has taken.

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between October 11 - 13, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 4% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty