Trump vs. Biden in Michigan: New poll results revealed

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

President Joe Biden, despite visiting Macomb County early this month and dispatching administration officials and campaign aides to Michigan in recent weeks, still appears to be trailing former President Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup in the state, 45%-41%, with 14% undecided, a new poll showed Wednesday.

That 4-percentage-point split is equal to the poll's margin of error, meaning statistically speaking the race could be tied. But a number of Michigan polls in recent months have shown Trump ahead of Biden, suggesting the former president does have an edge on the incumbent, even if it's only a slim one.

And the new poll indicates that Biden's refusal to heed calls, especially among younger, more progressive Democrats and Michigan's large Arab American and Muslim communities, to demand an Israeli end to deadly counterattacks in the Gaza Strip, appears to be playing a role in his support or lack thereof — a situation which could potentially cost him a vital swing state Trump won in 2016 before Biden recaptured it for Democrats four years ago.

"It points to a potential Trump win unless things dramatically change," said Bernie Porn, the pollster for EPIC-MRA in Lansing, the firm that conducted the survey and provided it to the Free Press. "He’s at a point where, before long, he's got to start moving numbers in his direction."

The poll, which surveyed 600 active and likely Michigan voters randomly selected between last Tuesday and Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, indicated 53% of all Michiganders are supportive of a cease-fire to negotiate for the release of hostages and provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Those in favor skewed much more toward the liberal end of the political spectrum, including 74% of self-described Democrats, 64% of independents and only 32% of Republicans.

Among those supportive of a cease-fire overall, just 57% said they were definitely supportive of Biden's reelection, with 27% supporting Trump and 15% undecided.

Trump, unsurprisingly, did better with the 27% who support Israel's continuing to wage war against Hamas in Gaza, leading among them 74%-18% with just 9% undecided, as well as with the 20% who were undecided, leading that bloc 51%-29% with 19% undecided. But given the more liberal- and moderate-leaning makeup of voters supportive of a cease-fire, the sizable percentage voicing doubts as to their support of the Biden campaign is sure to be of concern to the president.

That is especially true with progressives and members of the Arab American and Muslim communities in Michigan organizing a Listen to Michigan campaign urging people to vote "uncommitted" in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, rather than for Biden, as a signal to him that he needs to use U.S. sway — and financial support — to rein in Israel's attacks following Hamas' terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 against Israelis.

This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024.
This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have died in the counterattacks leading to widespread demands for a cease-fire. While Biden has called for restraint on the part of Israel, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, he has stopped short of demanding a cease-fire. Last week, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, a fierce critic of Israel's and the only Palestinian American in Congress, gave her vocal support to the vote-uncommitted effort, even though there are those who see that as a boost to Trump. "We feel completely neglected and just unseen by our government," she said in a video posted Saturday.

The Free Press uses EPIC-MRA as a pollster but did not contract with it for this most current poll, which comes at a time when voters have expressed concerns about Biden's age — at 81, he is the oldest sitting president ever, though Trump, at 77, is just four years younger — and other recent polls have shown Biden struggling to gain a lead in swing states he won four years ago.

Some polls have shown a tightening, however. A recent Fox News poll showed Trump with a more narrow 47%-45% head-to-head lead over Biden in Michigan, which was also within that poll's 3-percentage-point margin of error. The EPIC-MRA poll was conducted by live interviewers and 80% of those surveyed were reached by cellphones; it did not survey, as some other polls have done, levels of support for Biden and Trump along with other independent or third-party candidates.

As a practical matter, both Biden and Trump are expected to handily win their respective primaries in Michigan on Tuesday, and in many respects the race for November is already underway in the state. As such, the EPIC-MRA poll didn't attempt to measure Biden's support versus Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota or Trump's support versus Republican challenger and former South Carolina Gov. (and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley.

But some Democratic supporters of Biden's are worried that any animus shown toward the president now could cost him votes in the general election.

While the poll showed a slight narrowing of the race from EPIC-MRA's last survey in November, when Trump led 46%-41%, or just outside the margin of error, it also continued to show many of the same trends as that poll: Black voters, for instance, a key constituency for Biden and the Democrats, favored the current president 68%-17% with 16% undecided in the new poll; that's up from the 62%-17% Biden had in November with 21% undecided but a far cry from the 92% support from Black voters he had in the state according to exit polls in 2020.

White voters in the new poll, meanwhile, favored Trump 50%-37%, with 13% undecided, compared with Trump's lead of 47%-41% with 12% undecided in November.

And while Biden's support among self-described independents was up significantly — that group favored Trump 38% to 31% for Biden, with 32% undecided, compared with Trump leading that bloc 45%-18% with 38% undecided three months ago — Biden's support among college-educated voters dropped. The current poll had him leading with those voters 44%-38% with 18% undecided. That's compared with his 49%-37% lead among that bloc in November with 13% undecided. And that was well below the 17-point margin he had with those voters in the 2020 election.

Biden did see an uptick in support from the relatively small number of union members surveyed for this poll, which followed January's endorsement by the UAW, now leading the former president 46%-40% with 14% undecided among union members and 46%-44% with 11% undecided among voters with a union member in their household.

Meanwhile, Trump — who held a raucous, combative campaign rally in Waterford on Saturday — continued to post a strong lead among people with a high school diploma or less (49%-36%, with 15% undecided) and among people who went to school after high school but did not get a college degree (52%-39%, 9% undecided).

The survey also asked voters about the legal challenges facing Trump, who has been hit with some 91 charges in four criminal matters, and last week was both fined more than $450 million in New York for inflating financial statements — a judgment he plans to appeal — and told to expect a trial beginning next month on hush-money payments to a former adult film actress ahead of the 2016 election. He also faces Justice Department charges in Washington that he violated laws by trying to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and in Florida for improperly withholding classified documents after leaving office.

Voters were split as to whether he would be convicted of a crime in one of his trials — with 46% saying yes, 43% no. Asked how a conviction might affect their vote, the head-to-head match became a dead heat, 44%-44%, with 12% undecided, even though 56% of voters said that if he is convicted, he should be sentenced to jail time.

Finally, the poll indicated another dead heat between two candidates expected to be among their parties' front-runners in a U.S. Senate race in Michigan this fall. It indicated U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing, who is considered the favorite to win the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow in the fall, is in a virtual tie, 39%-38%, with former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, of Brighton, who has consolidated much of the mainstream Republican support and got a boost when former Detroit Police Chief James Craig left the race last week. Twenty-three percent remained undecided in a hypothetical matchup between the two.

Democratic and Republican primaries for those Senate races and other congressional and state seats will be held Aug. 6.

Looking for more on Michigan’s elections this year? Check out our voter guide, subscribe to our elections newsletter and always feel free to share your thoughts in a letter to the editor.

Contact Todd Spangler: Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan poll: Biden trails Trump amid calls for Israeli cease-fire