In this edition of the 2020 election monitor, we take a close look at COVID-19's role in the swing states. Trump testing positive for COVID-19 seems to have washed away some of the pandemic fatigue from US voters and they have been increasingly re-engaged in COVID-19 news according to numbers from Google trends, where COVID searches over that last two weeks have remained above the volume from before 2 October. Besides the initial phase of the pandemic, more Democratic voters have been following COVID-19 news, see chart 1.
Dividing states on who won the 2016 election shows how the virus has since June taken a much larger toll on Trump states compared with Clinton states (see Chart 2). The handling of COVID underscores the issue of Republican decentralisation. The decentralization agenda has lead the Trump administration to leave much of the COVID handling to each state which has caused some unintended side effects. One side effect has been that the states are now competing and bidding each other up in auctions for medical equipment, instead of buying nationally and allocating to the states with the greatest need.
The handling has left the general public dissatisfied with 61% of US adults deeming that the US has not done enough to control the outbreak, see chart 3. Although the view is heavily skewed towards people leaning Biden, 30% of people leaning Trump share this dissatisfied view. RealClearPolitics paints a similar picture with 56.5% disapproving of Trump's handling of COVID-19 (vs. 42.1% approving).
Generally the swing states have been hit harder by COVID-19 compared to the state average, which seems to have benefited Biden. In Arizona Biden is leading by 2.7pp, in Iowa Biden is leading by 1.2pp, in Florida Biden is leading by 3.7pp, in Wisconsin Biden is leading by 6.3pp and in Nevada Biden is leading by 4.2pp. All the above mentioned states share the common trait that Biden was either neck and neck with Trump or behind in polls back in March, but has now gained at least 2pp and is now leading in many of the states comfortably.
Looking at prediction markets, Joe Biden's probability of winning has increased after the first presidential TV debate and Trump being infected. Since our last edition, Connecticut has gone from leaning Biden to likely Biden. Minnesota is now a toss-up from leaning Biden, this could just be a minor fall out in a state with very infrequent polls.
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