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There are two key geographic battlegrounds for the Electoral College this year. One is the Midwest that until 2016, had been reliably Democratic. The other is the fast-growing Sun Belt section of the country that has traditionally voted Republican.
To help understand how voters in these regions are thinking about this election and the issues shaping it, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report have collaborated on two surveys. In November 2019, we released the Blue Wall Voices Project, a survey of 3,222 voters in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Michigan).
This week, we are releasing the most recent poll that featured 3,479 interviews with voters in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina.
While Trump carried all three states in 2016, he is not leading in any of these states today. Trump and Biden are essentially tied in Florida (Trump 42%, Biden's 43%) and NC (Trump 43%, Biden 45%). However, in Arizona, Biden has opened up a more substantial lead (Biden 45%, Trump 40%). A Biden win in Arizona would mean that he could afford to lose Michigan or Wisconsin (two of "Blue Wall" consortium) and still eke out an Electoral College win (assuming that he wins all the states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016). Biden could even afford to lose Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College with a combination of Arizona and Nebraska's 2nd CD.
Arizona is geographically large, but its population is concentrated in Maricopa County (Phoenix). About two-thirds of the vote comes from Maricopa. Voters there, as in other suburban areas in and around big metro areas, have soured on Pres. Trump. Biden leads Trump there by six points, 46 percent to 40 percent. In 2016, Trump carried Maricopa with almost 52 percent of the vote.
Another troubling sign for Trump in Arizona is that GOP voters are not as committed to supporting him as they are in the other Sun Belt states. Call it the revenge of former Arizona GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and the late John McCain, two of the president's most vocal critics. Only 73 percent of Arizona Republicans say they are definitely voting for Trump, with 9 percent saying they are probably or definitely voting for Joe Biden. In North Carolina and Florida the GOP defection rate to Biden is about half as much (5% in North Carolina and 4% in Florida). Meanwhile, 81 percent of Arizona Democrats say they are definitely voting for Biden with only 1% saying they were probable Trump voters.
Trump is also struggling with Latino support in Arizona, taking just 17 percent of the vote to Biden's 55 percent. In Florida, however, where Latinos also make up a similar percentage of the electorate, Trump is taking 36 percent of the vote to Biden's 53 percent.
This poll tracks with other recent surveys of Arizona which show Biden ahead. The FiveThirtyEight average puts Biden's lead in the state at five points (49-44 percent).
The new data in this poll, combined with other recent polling in the state, all find Arizona slipping away from Trump. We are moving it from Toss Up to Lean Democrat.
New Electoral College Ratings
The poll also tested key Senate and Gubernatorial contests in Arizona and North Carolina. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly has an 8 point lead over GOP Sen. Martha McSally (44-36 percent). The Cook Political Report has this race in the Lean Democrat column.
In North Carolina's Senate race, the Cook Political Report has the race in the Toss Up category; Democrat Cal Cunningham has a narrow four-point lead over GOP Sen. Thom Tillis (41-37 percent). Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has a substantial 10-point lead over Republican Dan Forest 48 percent to 38 percent. This race sits in Lean Democrat.