Biden Holds 8-Point Lead in Michigan as He Tries to Reconstruct the ‘Blue Wall’

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is leading President Trump by eight percentage points in Michigan, according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College on Wednesday, the latest survey to show Mr. Trump’s troubled standing in Midwestern battleground states as white voters without college degrees, his political bulwark, turn away from him.

Four years ago, Michigan provided one of Mr. Trump’s most surprising victories and helped him barrel through the so-called blue wall of Northern industrial states that had favored Democrats in presidential elections since the 1990s. This year, Michigan is trending with those states again, but in the wrong direction for Mr. Trump’s hopes of re-election.

Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, had the support of 49 percent of likely voters in the poll, and Mr. Trump was at 41 percent, virtually unchanged from a Times/Siena survey of Michigan two weeks ago.

Recent polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden in Wisconsin by similar or even larger margins. Mr. Trump is also behind in Pennsylvania, though polls have shown that race tightening somewhat recently and he held three rallies in the state on Monday, a sign his campaign believes it is within reach.

Mr. Biden will win the election if he captures Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and hangs onto the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

The results in Michigan also indicated a tough race for the Republican Senate candidate, John James, a 39-year-old Black Army combat veteran who has benefited from a surge of donations and support from the national party and its allies. Despite Republicans’ optimism about pulling off an upset against Senator Gary Peters, a first-term incumbent, the poll showed the Senate race aligned with the presidential contest: Mr. Peters led, 49 percent to 41 percent.

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That was a better showing for Mr. Peters than in the Times/Siena poll two weeks ago, when he led by only one point.

Over all, Mr. Trump’s popularity has taken a serious hit with the coalition of white voters — independents, those who had an unfavorable view of him but supported him anyway, people with and without college educations — that helped him inch to victory in Michigan in 2016. He won by fewer than 11,000 votes, or 0.2 percentage points, his thinnest margin of any state.

Four years ago, exit polls showed that he carried narrow majorities of independents and white college graduates, while winning a commanding majority of white voters without college degrees. Half of his voters said they did not have a favorable impression of him.

The Times/Siena survey found that only 33 percent of college-educated white voters said they were backing Mr. Trump for re-election. Mr. Biden is winning that demographic handily, with 60 percent support. Mr. Biden also has an advantage among independents, with 44 percent support to Mr. Trump’s 37 percent, and leads the president in every region of the state except for its rural areas.

Robert Sutton, who lives in Waterford Township in the suburbs north of Detroit, is typical of the voters in the state who have pulled it toward Mr. Biden’s column. Mr. Sutton, 74, is retired from General Motors and voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 as a “lesser of two evils” choice, as he described it in an interview. But he recently voted by mail for Mr. Biden.

“Joe Biden is not my original pick, but I definitely don’t like Trump,” Mr. Sutton said. “The way he acts, the lies he tells, the bullying. I can go on and on.” He initially liked the idea of a president who wasn’t a politician. “But I was wrong,” he said.

Still, Mr. Sutton is anxious about the outcome. “I’m hoping Biden wins, and I’m afraid that Trump might,” he said.

He is hardly alone. Nelson Sepúlveda, a professor of electrical engineering at Michigan State University, said the possibility of a Trump victory has left him “very stressed.”

He said he checks political websites for the latest polls four times a day. And despite the fact that Mr. Biden is leading in most of them, he still doesn’t entirely believe it. “I get the feeling that whatever happened in 2016 is going to happen to again,” said Mr. Sepúlveda. “And it scares the crap out of me what could happen with a person who is so divisive and only cares about himself and the stock market.”

Even among less educated white voters in Michigan, with whom Mr. Trump enjoys a wide lead, he is underperforming. The president has the support of 54 percent of those without college degrees, according to the poll, compared with the 62 percent that exit polls showed in 2016.

Among white voters over all, Mr. Trump has just a one-point advantage over Mr. Biden, 47 percent to 46 percent. And despite the president’s insistence that his popularity among Black voters is surging, he has only 4 percent support among them in Michigan.

The poll, which was conducted in phone interviews with 856 likely voters from Oct. 23 to 26, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Mr. Biden also leads significantly with people over 65, another voting bloc that went for Mr. Trump in 2016. Older voters in much of the country have soured on the president as the coronavirus pandemic surged and he failed to execute a consistent plan to fight it. Now cases are rising again in Michigan, one of the hardest-hit states in the first wave of infections.

As is the case elsewhere, the pandemic has shifted how and when people are voting. Forty-one percent of likely voters in Michigan said they had already voted.

Diane Hall, 61, who lives in Alpena in the rural northeast corner of the state’s Lower Peninsula, has not voted yet but said she would support Mr. Trump. Ms. Hall, a registered nurse, did not fault the president’s coronavirus response.

“Trump got the military hospitals in. He was ready. We had ventilators. We had the nurses and doctors,” she said, reserving her criticism for the former vice president.

“I hate Joe Biden,” she said. “I hated him since he worked for Obama.” As for Mr. Trump, Ms. Hall said, “He’s done everything he’s said he’s going to do, and I couldn’t be happier with his performance.”

Here are the crosstabs for the poll.