Written by Sydney Ember and Isabella Grullón Paz
Joe Biden has a steady lead over President Donald Trump in Nevada, a state that has been shading blue in recent elections but that Trump is hoping to flip, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released Tuesday.
Biden, the Democratic nominee, leads Trump 49% to 43% among likely voters in Nevada, with 4% undecided or declining to state a preference. The poll was taken after the presidential debate last week, one of Trump’s last opportunities to change the trajectory of the race.
The results are virtually unchanged from another Times/Siena poll in the state conducted this month after Trump announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, which found Biden leading Trump 48% to 42% among likely voters.
With just a week until Election Day and little time for Trump to make up any ground, the results underscore the challenges he faces in diverse battleground states that once seemed attainable, if not downright winnable, for an incumbent Republican president. Polls have also shown Trump trailing Biden in neighboring Arizona, a state that has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1996.
Nevada has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which could be a wild card in the election. There have been more than 96,000 cases in the state so far and more than 1,750 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The pandemic has hammered the state’s economy, which relies heavily on the tourism industry, causing unemployment to soar to one of the highest rates in the country; in September, it stood at about 13%, disproportionately affecting Latinos and working-class union voters, who are a large part of the Democratic Party’s base in the state.
Some Democratic strategists are now bracing for the possibility that a significant number of would-be Democratic voters must contend with more immediate concerns, including feeding their families, than casting a ballot.
Trump has continued to fight for Nevada, visiting the state twice since securing the Republican nomination for reelection; on Wednesday, he is planning to hold a rally just across the border in Bullhead City, Arizona. In September, The Cook Political Report shifted its assessment of the Nevada race in Trump’s direction, from “likely Democrat” to “lean Democrat.”
But Biden’s polling lead underscores the shifting dynamics of a consummate swing state that has taken on a Democratic tilt. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the state in 2016 by just over 2 percentage points, 10 points less than Barack Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. But in 2018, the state elected Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, who ousted the Republican incumbent senator, Dean Heller; and Gov. Steve Sisolak, the first Democratic governor to lead the state since 1999.
Biden is being buoyed by Hispanic voters, young voters and women, and trailing Trump among white voters without college degrees, the survey showed. Among Hispanic voters, who make up about 20% of eligible voters in the state, Biden held a commanding lead over Trump, 59% to 30%.
And among voters over 65 — a key demographic in sun-rich Nevada — Biden had a slight edge against Trump, with 51% support to the president’s 45%, reflecting Biden’s support nationally among the crucial, traditionally right-leaning voting bloc.
The poll, which was conducted by phone from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26 among 809 likely voters, had a margin of sampling error of roughly plus or minus 4 percentage points.
A strong aversion to Trump is helping to drive Biden’s support. Forty-three percent of respondents in the survey said they had a very unfavorable view of the president, including 55 % of nonwhite voters. Just over half of all respondents said they had a favorable view of Biden.
“I’d rather have anybody in the world except for Trump as president,” said William Watts, 69, a Democrat who is retired and lives in the northwest part of Las Vegas. “In my personal opinion, Trump has been a con artist since Day 1. He’s been a poor businessman. He’s been a marketing person — he just knows how to market himself.”
Lorenzo Creighton, 67, a semiretired former casino executive from Las Vegas, said voting for Biden was “a way to correct the problem — the experiment gone wrong — that is Donald Trump.”
“Joe Biden is a pretty solid performer,” said Creighton, an independent. “We know what his record is, and we know what kind of person he is.”
But Christopher Love, a 44-year-old Republican, said he had already voted for Trump because “I appreciate a person who just says what’s on their mind.”
Love, a general manager from Las Vegas, said he voted for Clinton in 2016 because of her support for LGBTQ people. But he said he believed that Trump supported same-sex marriage rights.
The survey results showed that voters in Nevada were roughly evenly split on how they viewed the candidates’ performances in the second and final presidential debate Thursday, with 39% saying that Biden had won, compared with 35% for Trump.
Officials began mailing ballots to all registered voters on Sept. 24 in Nevada, where in 2016, nearly 70% of all votes were cast before Election Day. So far, 668,000 people have voted early, either by absentee ballot or in person at polling places.