A new poll in the U.S. shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a negligible lead nationally over President Donald Trump ahead of November's election, but a sizeable advantage in 300 closely contested counties that could determine the outcome.
The Monmouth University poll released Tuesday shows Biden, the likely Democratic presidential candidate, ahead of the Republican president 48% to 45% in the national survey taken in recent days.
U.S. elections, however, are not decided by a national popular vote, but rather in the Electoral College that is determined by the outcome of the vote in each of the 50 states. Trump assumed the presidency three years ago after narrowly winning key states in the Electoral College vote in 2016, even as Democrat Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes nationally.
Monmouth said its survey shows that the 2020 election could be just as close.
But it said Biden holds a considerable edge over Trump — 50% to 41% — in 300 counties across the country where either Trump or Clinton won in 2016 by less than 10 percentage points. In 2016, Clinton won the cumulative vote in the 300 counties by just a single percentage point.
The outcome in the 300 counties, which account for about a fifth of the total U.S. electorate, could prove crucial in helping determine the outcome in individual states, and thus how its Electoral College votes are awarded.
"The race looks tight right now between Trump and the probable Democratic nominee," said Patrick Murray, the poll's director. "But as we learned in 2016, the outcome will be determined by the Electoral College rather than the national popular vote. The poll results suggest Biden may actually be starting out with an advantage in crucial swing areas of the country."
The Monmouth survey also showed that in the traditionally Republican counties Trump won handily in 2016 against Clinton, he would fare almost equally as well against Biden, with Biden likewise holding a wide edge in counties won by Clinton four years ago.
Biden, in his third run for the U.S. presidency over three decades, has yet to lock down the Democratic presidential nomination over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders but holds a perhaps insurmountable edge in pledged delegates to the party's national nominating convention in July.
While Trump and Biden regularly trade political barbs, the national presidential campaign is all but on hold while much of the country is sheltering at home to combat the spread of the coronavirus. With calls for a hiatus in large gatherings, neither Biden nor Trump is staging any public political rallies for now.