Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump has narrowed a touch to 8 points from a 10-point advantage in early October, according to a Fox News national survey of likely voters.   

Biden is ahead by a 52-44 percent margin. It was 53-43 percent three weeks ago. His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. Two percent back a third-party candidate and 2 percent are undecided. 

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Among likely voters, support for the former vice president has been between 51-53 percent since early September. That notably distinguishes this year’s race from 2016, when neither candidate exceeded 48 percent support in pre-election surveys -- or the final election results. 

The number of registered voters backing Biden is nearly identical to his support going all the way back to a hypothetical matchup in 2015. At that time, he led Trump by 50-37 percent. 

“Biden is holding a substantial lead nationally, many votes are already cast, and there are few undecideds,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the survey with Republican Daron Shaw. “It’s hard to see the national race shifting significantly in the closing days, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for Trump to again thread the needle on an Electoral College victory.”

The survey shows Trump is preferred by White men (+17 points), rural voters (+18), and White evangelical Christians (+50). Those margins are lower than what he received in 2016. According to Pew Research Center validated voter data, he won White men by 30 points, rural voters by 25, and White evangelicals by 61. 

Biden is the favorite among women (+17 points), suburban women (+29), Hispanics (+18), Blacks (+66), and voters under age 30 (+32). That is a mixed bag compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 support. She won women by 15, suburban women by 11, and voters under 30 by 30 -- but won Blacks by 85 points and Hispanics by 38. 

Seniors backed Trump by a 9-point margin in 2016, yet favor Biden by 10 in the new survey.

Independents, a small subgroup, favor Biden by 54-32 percent -- a group Trump won by a single point last time.

“Biden has the advantage among key groups, especially seniors, suburbanites, and independents,” says Shaw. “Trump needs a few more points out of these groups to win re-election. But the main impediment is the stubborn stability of the race; it hasn’t changed much all year despite pandemics, economic collapses, and massive social unrest.”

Another big difference in this election is that voters find one of the candidates likeable. That stands in stark contrast to 2016 when voters viewed both Clinton and Trump negatively. 

For Trump, 44 percent view him positively and 55 percent negatively, putting him underwater by 11 points. Moreover, 48 percent have a “strongly” unfavorable opinion of him compared to 34 percent for Biden. 

Biden has a 4-point strength-of-support edge, as slightly more of his backers (86 percent) say they are “extremely” committed to their candidate than Trump supporters (82 percent). 

And a touch more of those favoring Biden (78 percent) feel “extremely” motivated about voting than those backing Trump (74 percent). In November 2016, more Trump voters (64 percent) than Clinton voters (54 percent) were “extremely” interested in the race.  

That said, only about 6 in 10 of those backing Biden say their vote is mainly “for” him (57 percent), while 8 in 10 of those backing Trump say the same (80 percent). 

TRUMP, BIDEN BLITZ BATTLEGROUND STATES IN FINAL CAMPAIGN SPRINT

Biden supporters (41 percent) are more than twice as likely as Trump supporters (18 percent) to describe their vote as being “against” the other candidate. 

Most of those casting a ballot in person back Trump (53 percent), while a majority of those voting by mail go for Biden (65 percent). 

More than one in three voters report having already cast their ballot, and among this group the former vice president is ahead by 29 points. Trump leads by 16 points among those planning to vote on Election Day. 

Overall, 46 percent of likely voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while a majority of 54 percent disapproves (46 percent “strongly” disapprove). His best marks came in April of this year, when views on his performance split 49-49 percent (registered voters).

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Conducted October 27-29, 2020, under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,318 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide who spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The survey includes results among 1,246 likely voters.  The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for both registered and likely voters. 

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.