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Biden vs. Trump too close to call in three key states, poll finds. Some Trump voters think he deserves prison time.

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are in a dead heat in the three states most likely to decide the presidential election.

A Florida Atlantic University poll released Tuesday found a strikingly close contest, with 46% for Trump and 45% of likely voters for Biden. The candidates are a percentage point or two apart in each state, making the race too close to consider either one the frontrunner.

Almost half the voters polled in those critical swing states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — believe Trump is guilty of the criminal charges that resulted in his conviction last week on 34 felony counts.

The poll, which started after the jury verdict was announced, found voters are divided — largely based on their political affiliation — about whether Trump should go to prison.

Democrats overwhelmingly think Trump deserves prison time, though one in six said he shouldn’t.

Most Republicans said he doesn’t deserve prison time — but one in seven said Trump should get locked up.

Pollsters also found some respondents who said they would vote for Trump in the fall — but also think he should be imprisoned for the crimes for which he was convicted.

Among voters who said they planned to vote for Trump this fall, 10% said they believe he was guilty of crimes on which a New York jury found him guilty and 7% said he “deserves” prison time for the felony convictions.

Critical states

In the three states together — all northern, industrial states where the population shares many characteristics — Trump has 46% and Biden has 45% of likely voters, FAU pollsters found.

Another 4% said they’d vote for another candidate and 5% said they were undecided.

FAU polled in the three states because they are critical to the outcome of the Biden-Trump contest.

“Neither side has a meaningful advantage in any of the three states at this time,” Dukhong Kim, an FAU political scientist, said in a written statement.

All are swing states, and together award 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Florida, which awards 30 electoral votes this year, for decades was a swing state that could go for either party, but it’s now become much more Republican.

Kevin Wagner, an FAU political scientist, said the contest is so close that the movement of 2 or 3% of voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could determine the next president.

In 2020, Biden won the three states by thin margins: Michigan by 2.8%; Pennsylvania by 1.2%; and Wisconsin by less than 1%.

Guilty or not

Close to half (48%) voters surveyed in the three states think Trump was guilty of the crime he was accused of in New York.

Another 38% said he was not guilty and 14% said they didn’t know.

There were some notable differences:

  • Men were evenly split, with 44% saying he was guilty and 43% saying he wasn’t. Women felt far differently, with 52% declaring him guilty and just 33% saying he wasn’t.
  • Voters aged 50 and older were more likely than younger voters to say Trump was guilty, 52% to 40%, with 8 percent saying they didn’t know. Among voters under 50, 42% said he was guilty, 35% said he wasn’t. A much higher share (23%) said they didn’t know.
  • People’s assessments lined up with their political affiliations.

Democrats overwhelmingly (79%) said Trump was guilty and Republicans (66%) overwhelmingly said he wasn’t.

There were those who went against the grain in each party: 12% of Democrats said Trump wasn’t guilty and 18% of Republicans said Trump was guilty.

Republicans were more likely (16%) than Democrats (9%) to say they didn’t know if Trump was guilty as charged.

Among independents, 50% said Trump was guilty, 31% said he wasn’t, and 19% said they didn’t know.

“Trump’s legal jeopardy may be rallying part of his base,” said Wagner, who is co-director of FAU’s PolCom Lab, which is a collaboration of the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies and Department of Political Science. “Most of his supporters don’t believe he’s guilty, while Biden voters overwhelmingly think he committed crimes.”

Wagner said the 18% of Republicans who believe Trump is guilty is notable. “If they stay home, it could matter in November especially in close states like these.”

Lock him up

Voters were divided over whether Trump “deserves to serve time in prison” for the crimes, with more opposed to incarceration than supporting it.

The poll found 46% of voters said he doesn’t deserve prison time, 40% said he does deserve a prison sentence, and 14% said they didn’t know.

Men strongly opposed (53% to 37%) prison time. Women narrowly favored prison (44% to 40%).

Among Democrats, 70% said he deserves prison time, 17% said he doesn’t, and 13% said they didn’t know.

Among Republicans, 77% said he does not deserve prison time, 15% said he does and 8% said they didn’t know.

Independents were in the middle, with 41% opposing a prison sentence, 36% in support and 23% who didn’t know.

Head-to-head matchup

Across the three states, each candidate had pockets of relative strength and relative weakness:

  • Biden was ahead by 5 percentage points among women and Trump was ahead by 9 percentage points among men.
  • Trump was ahead by 8 percentage points among voters aged 18-34. Biden was ahead by 2 percentage points among voters 50 and older.
  • Among Democrats, 83% said they’d vote for Biden. Among Republicans, 82% said they’d vote for Trump. Independents were evenly split: 41% for Trump and 40% for Biden.

In Michigan, which awards 15 electoral votes, the survey found Biden support from 47% of likely voters and Trump had 46%. (Among a larger sample of all Michigan voters, they were tied at 45%.)

In Pennsylvania, which awards 19 electoral votes, the survey found Trump had 47% to Biden’s 45% among likely voters. (Among the larger sample of all Pennsylvania voters, the poll found Trump was also ahead by 2 percentage points.)

In Wisconsin, which awards 10 electoral votes, Trump had support of 41% of likely voters to 40% for Biden. (Among the larger sample of all Wisconsin voters, Biden was ahead by 2 percentage points.)

RFK Jr.

When voters were given the options of Biden, Trump or the anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent candidate, there wasn’t a significant difference in the outcome.

Taking the three states together, Biden was at 42% among likely voters, Trump at 41%, Kennedy at 8%, with 3% saying they’d vote for another candidate and 6% undecided.

Age makes a big difference. Kennedy had support of 17% of those under age 50 and 3% of those 50 and older.

Partisan affiliation didn’t make much difference in the results. Kennedy had support of 6% of Democrats, 7% of Republicans and 16% of independent voters.

Issues

Voters in the three states overwhelmingly said the economy (37%) was their most important election issue. Another 18% cited immigration as their No. 1 issue and 15% said abortion. Nothing else was in double digits.

“These battleground states continue to prioritize economic concerns over social issues,” Luzmarina Garcia, an FAU political scientist said in a written analysis. “While the economy is the top matter for voters across party lines, we see a stark split on the second-tier priorities.”

According to the poll, 30% of Trump voters rank immigration as their second-most crucial issue compared to only 5.5% of Biden voters. Conversely, a quarter of Biden supporters cite abortion access as highly important, versus just 5% who backed Trump.

Fine print

The poll of 2,068 adults living in the U.S. was conducted May 30 and 31 — after the guilty verdicts were returned — by Mainstreet Research for Florida Atlantic University’s PolCom Lab.

The survey used an online panel and automated phone calls to reach other voters. It has a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

However, the margin of error for smaller groups, such as people in each of the three states, Republicans or Democrats, or men and women, would be higher because the sample sizes are smaller.

Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] and can be found @browardpolitics on Bluesky, Threads, Facebook and Mastodon.

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