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Changes in the number of voters registered to each of the major parties have proven to be a significant variable in election outcomes in the past, according to strategists at the New York-based bank, which analyzed trends in some of the battleground states that will be crucial to an electoral college victory.
Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump by 9.2 points nationally, according to an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics, but his lead is at a tighter 4.9 points in hotly contested states.
Four years ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also outstripped Trump in national polling and won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, only to lose the electoral college, where she took just 227 votes to Trump’s 304.
This year’s campaign may be won or lost in some of the same battlegrounds as that race, which has made them focal points for politicians, pollsters and observers alike.
In Pennsylvania, for example, a blue-leaning state that Trump won by 44,292 votes in 2016, the Republican Party has since picked up nearly 200,000 voters.
JPMorgan says the gains suggest Trump could win the state by a margin of more than 240,000 in the upcoming election.
Similar progress in battlegrounds Florida and North Carolina suggest Trump may take those states by a larger margin than in his first campaign as well.
JPMorgan also believes a surge in the number of registered Republicans will tighten the race in New Mexico, but that the state will still go with Biden. On the flipside, a growing number of registered Democrats in Arizona will make the state close, but Trump should prevail.
While voter registration is encouraging for Trump and the GOP, it is “only one variable in determining the election outcome,” the JPMorgan quant team led by Marko Kolanovic wrote, noting that the results should not be used to predict a state’s outcome.
A number of other issues that don’t show up in the polls also offer encouraging signs for Trump, according to a Wells Fargo report released last month.
The firm noted Trump outperformed the polls in all of the key battleground states in 2016 and also suggested his recent Supreme Court nomination, gun ownership trends and a stronger backing from African-American voters are all playing into Trump’s hands.
Off-campus learning due to COVID-19 and a smaller independent vote also favor the president, the analysts said.