With weeks to go before the US presidential election, former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s nominee, is currently polling ahead of incumbent Republican president Donald Trump in key battleground states, though he has seen his lead narrow in some states since the summer. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Mr Trump won by razor thin margins in 2016, Mr Biden leads by 5 and 6 points, respectively. The race is even closer in Arizona, a state only one Democratic presidential candidate has won in the past 70 years, and Ohio, where Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 8 points in 2016. Other toss-up states include North Carolina, which has voted Republican in nine out of the last 10 presidential elections, as well as Florida and Texas, where Covid cases soared during the summer. In these states, the difference in poll numbers between the two men is less than 5 percentage points, suggesting a close race in November.
National polls show Mr Biden at a significant advantage. White seniors in particular, a group that helped propel Mr Trump to victory in 2016, have shown signs of disapproval towards the president's handling of the pandemic. Mr Biden holds a substantial lead among Latino voters, a growing demographic in swing states like Arizona and Florida, but some polls suggest he is less popular with Latino voters than either Barack Obama in 2012 or Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The coronavirus has realigned voters' concerns and behaviour. For recent developments in voter sentiment, see the monthly FT-Peterson Economic Monitor.
The FT poll tracker is based on data from Real Clear Politics. We calculate poll averages for Biden and Trump in each state using an exponential decay formula, which gives more weight to recent polls. We then use these averages to determine whether a state is ‘solid’, ‘leaning’, or a ‘toss-up’. States where the difference between the two candidates is more than 10 percentage points are classified as ‘solid’, while those with a difference of less than 5 percentage points are classified as ‘toss-up’ states. If a state has less than two polls in the past 60 days, we use the Cook Political Report Electoral College Ratings to categorise it. We consider Cook’s ‘likely’ and ‘lean’ states ‘leaning’ in our classification. Historical results data comes from the Federal Election Commission and Daily Kos. For several hours on June 23, we included states with only one poll.
Most states use a ‘winner-takes-all’ method to allocate electoral college votes: the winner of the state’s popular vote receives all of its electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, however, the winner in each congressional district receives one electoral vote and the statewide winner is awarded two electoral votes.
After Mr Trump's 2016 win, many Americans, including supporters of Mr Biden, are apt to mistrust the polls, especially at the state level. Poll averages are just one way to estimate the state of the race, and can create potential outliers in states that do not have regular surveys. Do you think the polls are making wrong predictions in the most important states? Use our interactive calculator below to select who you think will win each state.
Key presidential races calculator
Joe Biden and Donald Trump each need 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Most states are leaning or solidly in favour of one candidate, but in some states the race is too close to call. These toss-up states are ranked below, with the closest races shown first. Which way do you think they will vote?