The Purple Highway – April Polls in Pennsylvania and Michigan Show Biden Lead Includes Former Trump Voters

It’s a given that the 2020 Presidential election will run through the three States Donald Trump won in 2016 by a total of 77,000 votes to produce an Electoral College Majority despite his losing the nationwide Popular Vote. Those states are Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Democrats must win all three of these States, if no other States have different outcomes than 2016, to win back the Presidency. Losing any one of these states means the Democrats must win an equal or better number of Electoral College votes in other states to win the election. If the Democrats lose only Wisconsin, they must win in Arizona, or Florida, or North Carolina, or some other state. If the Democrats lose a state they won very narrowly, like New Hampshire, Maine, or Minnesota, they must win the Purple Trio and add another state to the victory column.

In 2016, there was a dearth of polling in Wisconsin and Michigan, but that problem has been corrected. In fact, there are reports that President Trump was so upset by recent polling showing him losing to Joe Biden in swing states that he berated his campaign manager for the poor state of the campaign.

I’m taking a look at some solid polling for Biden in April 2020 in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and will follow up in another article to take a look at Wisconsin and Florida. There hasn’t been polling in Arizona since March 2020, even though that State is considered to be highly competitive. 538.com has also recently published a swing state review

First I review Pennsylvania, but before looking at those April polls here’s the reality check of the tight 2016 margins in that state.

pennsylvania results more narrow 2016

Donald Trump beat Hilary Clinton in Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, just seven-tenths of one percent. 3d-party and write-in candidates got 4% of the vote.

Here is some demographic data from the Pennsylvania Exit Polls: this data is worth comparing to the current April 2020 polls to see if there any significant changes.

Pennsylvania 2016 exit polls

The above data show Donald Trump won the white vote, which was 81% of the vote, by 56%-40%, over Hilary Clinton. Secretary Clinton won the black vote, which was 10% of the vote, 92-7, and the nonwhite vote, totaling 19% of the vote, 81-16.

Trump’s dismay about current swing state polling certainly is well-founded. Here are the results of six April 2020 polls in Pennsylvania.

Susquehanna A.14-20 693 LV 48 42
Ipsos A.15-20 578 RV 46 40
Hodas A.16-18 600 LV 47 47
Fox News A.18-21 803 RV 50 42
PPP A.20-21 1251 RV 51 44
Harper A.21-26 644 LV 49 43

Since April 14th, Vice-President Joe Biden is leading in five out of six polls in Pennsylvania, and in the sixth poll there was a tie. Biden’s average lead for all six polls combined is 5.6 points.


The Fox News and Public Policy Polling polls offer some data to provide some comparisons to 2016. PPP also compares the preferences of the group currently sampled with how they voted in 2016. It shows that 8% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 say they will vote for Joe Biden. Ten percent of the sample in the poll reported they voted for someone other than Clinton or Trump, or did not vote. Among this group, Biden was leading 2-1 with 29% still not sure who they would choose. Only  1% of those who voted for Hilary Clinton say they will now vote for Donald Trump.

pennsylvania 2020 PPP biden trump

Both the Fox News and PPP polls provided demographic data that can be used to compare the polling to the 2016 Exit Polls. Here is the Fox News breakdown:

fox news april 2020 pennsylvania

Here is the PPP breakdown:

PPP Pennsylvania April 2020

The 2016 Pennsylvania Exit Polls showed Trump winning the white vote 56-40%. The Fox News Poll shows Trump beating Biden among whites 47-45; PPP shows Trump winning 52-44 among whites. Among nonwhites, the 2016 Exit Polls showed Clinton beating Trump 81-16; Biden has comparable lopsided margins among nonwhites. The April 2020 Pennsylvania polls show Biden retaining traditional Democratic strength among nonwhites, and doing far better than Clinton among white voters.


The Presidential election in Michigan in 2016 was even closer than Pennsylvania.

michigan results 2016

Clinton lost to Trump by 10,700 votes in Michigan, about two-tenths of one percent of the vote. Here is a demographic breakdown of the vote from the Exit Polls:

michigan 2016 exit polls

In Michigan, whites were 75% of the vote and Trump defeated Clinton 57-36%. Blacks were 15% of the vote and Clinton won 92-6%; she won the total nonwhite vote, which was 25%, 80-17%.


There were 5 polls reported from Michigan on 538.com. Joe Biden was leading by an average of 7.6 % in all the polls combined.

Hart A.6-8 303 LV 50 41
Hodas A.9-11 600 LV 49 43
Ipsos A.15-20 612 RV 46 38
Fox News A.18-21 801 RV 49 41
PPP A.20-21 1277 RV 51 44


Public Policy Polling, in a poll conducted on April 20-21 among 1277 Registered Voters, reported Biden defeating Trump 51-44. The poll compared voter preferences now with 2016:

michigan PPP 2016 comparison

This PPP poll shows 10% of persons in the sample who voted for Trump in 2016 report they are voting for Biden as of April 2020. 4% of those who voted for Clinton now say they will vote for Trump. Among those who voted for someone else or did not vote in 2016, 58% say they will vote for Biden, only 23% say they will vote for Trump.

Fox News and PPP also broke out their demographic data in their April 2020 polls. Here is Fox News:

fox news michigan april 2016

And PPP:

michigan PPP trump biden April 2016

Trump led Clinton among whites in Michigan 57-36% in 2016, according to the Exit Polls. In the Fox News Poll Trump led Biden 48-42 among whites; in the PPP poll he led Biden among whites 51-44%. Clinton won the nonwhite vote 80-17% in 2016, according to the Exit Polls. Biden was winning the nonwhite vote in the Fox News poll by a similar margin, 76-13, and winning both the black vote and the other nonwhite vote by comparable margins in the PPP poll.

In both Michigan and Pennsylvania, Joe Biden is outperforming Hilary Clinton among whites while preserving similar margins to 2016 among blacks and other nonwhite voters. Significantly, 8% of the 2016 Trump voters in Pennsylvania, and 10% of the 2016 Trump voters in Michigan, now say they are voting for Biden. Nonetheless, as indicated above, if all other state results stayed the same as 2016, but the Democrats won only Pennsylvania and Michigan, they would still lose. They must win additional Electoral College votes in a state or states taken by Trump.

I will take a look in the next article at Florida and Wisconsin, both of which Trump took by small margins in 2016.



Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years and retired at the end of 2016. He chaired four committees, including the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions for six years, the Committee on Cities for five years, and the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for six years. There are 96 Brennan laws on the books of the State of New York and Jim won three national awards for his legislative work during his career.

1 comment on “The Purple Highway – April Polls in Pennsylvania and Michigan Show Biden Lead Includes Former Trump Voters

  1. Carol Smolenski

    For anyone who wants to get involved in securing PA for Biden, Changing the Conversation Together (www.ctctogether.org) has started conducting phone canvassing. Last Sunday we had 74 conversations with people in Bucks County, a swing county in a swing state. Another canvass coming up at the end of May and more to come.

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