Donald Trump and Joe Biden are virtually tied in a critical poll about the presidential election—and have been for months.
In the University of Michigan consumer sentiment poll released Friday, forty-eight percent of consumers forecast a Biden victory and 47 percent forecast a Trump victory. This virtual tie has existed in data from July through September.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey approaches political polling differently than most other polls. Instead of asking consumers who they prefer or intend to vote for, it asks who they think will win the election.
“The data from July to September indicate a virtual tie. This question has been asked since Carter ran against Ford in 1976, and in every presidential election, consumers correctly chose the winner, save one: when Trump ran against Clinton in 2016, two-thirds of consumers expected a Clinton victory,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.
The only other time the results have been this close was the 1980 election, when Reagan led Carter by only one percentage point.
It is notable that the poll now gives much greater odds of Trump winning than it did in 2016.
Overall consumer sentiment improved in early September, the survey data shows. The consumer sentiment index rose to 78.9 from the 74.1 August reading. This not only topped the consensus forecast but beat the top of the range of economists surveyed by Econoday, indicating that the U.S. consumer is doing much better than thought.
The improvement was due to consumer expectations for the economy, driven by improving optimism about the economic outlook. Republicans, who have been far more optimistic about the economy throughout the Trump presidency, lost a bit of their hopefulness in September, likely because of worries that Biden could win in November. Despite the decline, Republicans remain far more positive about both present conditions and future conditions than Democrats or Independents. As well, Republicans are more positive now than they were in July.
Consumers favor Trump on the economy, 38 percent to 33 percent. Twenty-eight percent say it will make no difference to the economy whether Trump or Biden wins. On their personal finances, 33 percent say Trump is better and 28 percent say Biden is better. Forty-percent said it makes no difference to their household finances.
“Over the next several months, there are two factors that could cause volatile shifts and steep losses in consumer confidence: how the election is decided and the delays in obtaining vaccinations. While the end of the recession will depend on these non-economic factors, the hardships endured by consumers can only be offset by renewed federal relief payments,” Curtin said.