WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — In a typical election cycle, a hospitalized candidate fighting off a deadly disease might expect a wave of sympathy and a noticeable polling boost.
President Donald Trump is not a typical candidate and the 2020 presidential race is not a typical election.
The latest NewsNation/Emerson College poll debuted during Tuesday night’s edition of NewsNation and surveyed registered voters in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, which is viewed by many as the tipping point state most likely to determine the 2020 presidential election winner.
The topline findings from the survey of 688 registered voters is in line with other Pennsylvania polls. Former Vice President Joe Biden enjoys 50% support, with 45% committed to President Trump. Only 3% of respondents remain undecided. Another 2% plan to vote third party.
If forced to choose, three-quarters of the undecided voters said they would pick Trump.
On the specific question of how Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis would impact voting preference, the poll suggested little movement. Two-thirds of respondents said the president’s condition would not impact their vote choice. Those who were influenced were split almost evenly: 111 respondents, or 16%, said they would be more likely to vote for Trump, while 122 said they would be less likely.
Half of the respondents think COVID-19 is a major health threat, and 56% think Biden has a better recovery plan that the current occupant of the White House.
Thought the numbers don’t show the state slipping away from Mr. Trump, there is no evidence he is closing the polling gap in a state that was key to his 2016 upset.
National polling on the election had remained relatively steady since mid-summer, with aggregators giving former vice president Joe Biden a lead in the 6 to 7 percent range nationally, roughly double the margin Hillary Clinton enjoyed in polling on Election Day 2016. Following the contentious and unproductive first Presidential debate, Mr. Trump’s opponent is gaining further ground, leading in the nine percent range on average as of Tuesday.
Common political science wisdom suggests that a candidate experiencing a personal emergency or suffering is likely to benefit from public sympathy, but Trump’s inconsistent and often dismissive statements around mask use and the threat posed by COVID-19 significantly complicates that prospect.
By the end of this week we should begin to see the coronavirus outbreak in the West Wing fully reflected in the polling averages.