With two months to go before the US presidential election, former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s nominee, is 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 Wisconsin, where Mr Trump won by a razor thin margin in 2016, Mr Biden currently holds a 6 point lead. In Florida, where Covid cases soared during the summer, Mr Biden leads Mr Trump by about 4 percentage points. Mr Biden also holds a narrow lead in Arizona, a state only one Democratic presidential candidate has won in the past 70 years, and an even narrower one in North Carolina, which has voted Republican in nine out of the last 10 presidential elections. In Texas, the difference in poll numbers between the two men is less than 5 percentage points, also suggesting a close race in November in the quintessential red state.
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. Polling 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. For example, our categorisation of South Carolina, which Mr Trump won by more than 14 points in 2016, as "tossup" is based on two polls. Both show Mr Trump with just a single-digit lead this year, but the state has long been hard to poll, and in 2016, polls there underestimated Mr Trump's margin by more than 10 points. 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?