In Rust Belt states, data could make the difference for Trump

Donald Trump holds a narrow advantage in Ohio, while voters in the three battleground states that put him over the top in 2016 prefer Joe Biden

With now just 11 days until the presidential election, incumbent Republican President Trump is increasingly focused on presenting his case to Rust Belt voters drifting toward Democratic challenger Joe Biden

While the president holds a slight advantage in battleground Ohio -- a crucial state for any Republican presidential candidate to win -- Fox News polls this week show the former vice president leading Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

FOX NEWS POLL: TRUMP GAINS IN OHIO, BIDEN AHEAD IN MICHIGAN, PENNSYLVANIA, WISCONSIN

Biden leads by 12 points in Michigan, 5 points in Pennsylvania and 5 points in Wisconsin, according to surveys of likely voters.

The president had carried each state by less than a percentage point four years ago, and his margin in Ohio was much higher than it is now. He leads Biden in the Buckeye State by just 3 percentage points.

Yet early data is not an accurate depiction of election results and the president has improved his standings in recent weeks. 

Cities such as Erie, Pa., are Trump's bread and butter, with strong showings of support from rural communities and White men without a college degree

President Trump reacts after speaking during a campaign rally at Muskegon County Airport, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Norton Shores, Mich. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump reacts after speaking during a campaign rally at Muskegon County Airport, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Norton Shores, Mich. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Where the president falls short is with women, minorities and young voters who intend to turn out in droves. Although Trump is still winning White women without college degrees in the Keystone State, he’s doing so by a much smaller margin than in 2016. 

The president even pleaded for suburban women in Pennsylvania to "like him" at a campaign event last week.

Fox News survey co-conductor and Democratic pollster Chris Anderson said Thursday that a "lower than expected turnout among young people combined with robust rural turnout could easily put Ohio in Trump’s column again, and possibly Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, too."

Yet young voters have contributed to early voting surges in other battlegrounds, according to The Daily Beast

Citing a new report from Tufts University, the outlet wrote that in comparing the number of votes cast in person and by mail across 12 states by Oct. 21, 2020, with the same date four years ago, youth votes had increased astronomically. 

The researchers found that in "Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, early votes cast by youth have already exceeded the 2016 margin of victory in each state.”

According to the report, more than 3 million young people have voted early nationwide. 

Fox News data confirmed voters under 35 support Biden in all four Rust Belt-centric states. 

While younger voters generally lean toward progressive candidates and are more in tune with social issues, GOP officials worry an economic platform may not be enough to win the support the president needs this year.

Nevertheless, survey co-conductor and Republican Daron Shaw believes the economy is "still the key to success for Trump." 

"Voters don’t rate him very favorably on handling the pandemic, and that’s a big drag on his re-election chances right now," Shaw said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a key issue especially in big cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Columbus -- though none were hit quite as hard as states including California, New York, Florida and Texas

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Seniors, who have also been disproportionately hurt by the virus, favor the president in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but in Michigan and Wisconsin, they choose Biden. 

Fox News’ Dana Blanton and Victoria Balara contributed to this report.