Biden Leads Trump in Wisconsin

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President Joe Biden is facing a better political environment in the key swing states that will decide the 2024 presidential election following his State of the Union address and his and Donald Trump’s ascendence as their parties’ presumptive nominees.

In our first swing-state surveys since the two major party candidates appeared to seal the deal on their nominations, Trump still mostly maintains an advantage — but voters in these key battlegrounds are starting to see improvements in their daily lives under Biden’s presidency and view him more favorably.

State of the race

For the first time in our six waves of surveys on behalf of Bloomberg News, Biden leads Trump in Wisconsin, a state Trump won in 2016 but that Biden flipped from red to blue in 2020. This comes amid generally positive movement across much of the swing-state map during the first two months of the year, even as the incumbent still trails Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, while he’s tied with his predecessor in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Biden’s standing in Wisconsin has seen a boost driven by his best showing across the seven states tested with Democratic voters and, notably, independent voters, among whom Trump’s standing has reached a low point in the state. 

Biden’s recent improvement comes as more voters across the swing-state map express favorable sentiment about him or Vice President Kamala Harris than ever have since we began tracking those metrics in October. 

At the same time, more voters than ever before said they have recently heard something good about the incumbent, and fewer flag the importance of the presumptive major party nominees’ vice presidential candidate due to the top of the ticket’s age.  This aligns with our observation at the national level that Biden’s State of the Union address slightly eased concerns about his age — and the reality that he’s set for a rematch with Trump is finally dawning on voters following the end of the Republican primary, with more room to grow. 

This expected rematch could work to Biden’s benefit over the coming months as more voters pay attention to Trump, given how negative feelings about the 45th president helped energize people who voted for Biden four years ago. Our exit polling back then found that Americans who voted for Biden were far more likely to cast their votes as expressions of opposition to Trump than as an endorsement of Biden himself.

According to the March data, 45% of Biden backers across the seven states tested said their support was an expression of opposition to Trump, compared with 28% of Trump supporters who said the same of Biden. Trump’s backers, on the other hand, are far more likely than Biden’s to say their expected vote is an expression of support for their own candidate (72% to 55%).

The negative energy is strongest in Wisconsin, where Biden backers are 20 percentage points more likely to say their anticipated vote for the incumbent is an expression of opposition to Trump than support for the president (60% to 40%). This appears attributable to independent voters there, who are far more likely than Democrats who back the president to say their vote is an expression of opposition to Trump in the seven-state average. 

When it comes to independent supporters currently backing Trump, 2 in 5 say their vote choice is an expression of opposition to Biden. This may provide Biden a thread to tug on in the coming months to boost his margins given their inclination to oppose Trump four years ago, particularly as more independent voters become certain of his likelihood to be the Republican nominee.

Swing-state voters’ economic perceptions are improving

The average swing-state voter is less likely to see the country’s economy as on the wrong track compared with five months ago, though sentiment remains underwater, with 68% saying the economy is on the wrong track and 32% seeing it moving in the right direction.

However, for the second time in our tracking, economic sentiment is above water at the local level — something that’s especially true in the Upper Midwest, giving Biden a chance to highlight regional successes as he traverses the campaign trail. 

In Michigan, 58% of voters say their local economy is on the right track – similar to the 57% of voters in Wisconsin who said the same. The local economic outlook is less rosy in Pennsylvania, where 52% said it is on the wrong track.

Across the seven states, the economic improvement is being felt strongest by higher earners, though even these voters are far more likely to trust Trump to handle the issue than Biden. 

Despite this, Biden’s standing on the head-to-head ballot against Trump continues to surpass his issue trust ratings on a range of issues, including crime, immigration and the economy. This suggests voters are willing to sideline their views of how he’s handling policy when he’s matched up against Trump.

How swing-state voters feel about tax policy

Beyond the broader economy and issues that have been salient so far in the 2024 campaign, whoever is elected to sit in the Oval Office next year will have to grapple with tax policy given the pending expiration of parts of Trump’s 2017 tax law. Very few voters in the swing states want to see this expire, but there’s strong support for not stopping there.

Nearly 7 in 10 swing-state voters – with little variation by state — support raising taxes on the wealthy, be they billionaires or those making more than $400,000 annually. Another 2 in 3 swing-state voters support cutting taxes for everyone else, while half support raising the corporate rate.

While a corporate tax hike draws partisan rifts between Biden’s and Trump’s supporters, there is majority support for raising taxes on the rich on both sides of this year’s political aisle.

Over half of Trump’s supporters in the seven states support raising taxes on higher earners, along with nearly all of Biden’s supporters, giving bipartisan backing to Biden’s idea. The two sides are closer when asked about tariffs, with more Biden backers than not joining majorities of Trump supporters in supporting a 10% tariff on all imports or a 60% tariff on imports from China, as Trump has proposed.

Taken together, sentiment in favor of taxing the rich and imposing protectionist policies underscores a poplist bent on both sides of the election aisle and gives both Biden and Trump an opportunity to capitalize on it — though Biden’s approach to the wealthy is more popular than many of Trump’s stated priorities.

The bottom line

Our latest research in the swing states shows that voters’ mood toward Biden has improved, similar to what we’ve been seeing at the national level. However, the incumbent still faces substantial headwinds in our first check on the battlegrounds since both he and Trump became their parties’ presumptive nominees — leaving it up to Biden to try to revive the same anti-Trump coalition that brought him the presidency in the first place.

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