KEY POINTS
  • Voters in six key battleground states are split over whether they prefer President Trump or apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, a CNBC/Change Research poll found. 
  • They also are roughly split over who would better handle a range of issues from combating the coronavirus to lifting the economy from a recession and reducing health costs. 
  • The poll surveyed likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Joe Biden and Donald Trump

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are locked in a tight race in six states that will shape who wins the White House in November, according to a new CNBC/Change Research survey.

The Republican incumbent and apparent Democratic nominee are virtually tied in the battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the States of Play poll of swing states released Wednesday. Trump edges Biden by a 48% to 47% margin across those states, the poll found.

The poll, which surveyed 5,787 likely voters in the six states on April 17 and 18, has a margin of error is plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.

The split in voter preferences in those states goes beyond their ballot choices. On a range of issues facing the country, from handling the coronavirus pandemic to pulling the economy out of a recession and making health care more affordable, respondents in the six battlegrounds do not have a clear preference for who would do a better job between Trump and Republicans or Biden and Democrats. 

  • The coronavirus: 51% said Biden and Democrats would do a better job handling the outbreak, while 49% chose Trump and Republicans
  • Preventing another pandemic: 51% Biden to 49% Trump 
  • Recovering from a recession: 50% Biden to 50% Trump
  • The economy: 52% Trump to 48% Biden 
  • Creating jobs: 51% Trump to 49% Biden 
  • Helping your pocketbook: 51% Trump to 49% Biden 
  • Putting the middle class first: 52% Biden to 48% Trump 
  • Making health care more affordable: 52% Biden to 48% Trump
  • Relying on facts and science to make decisions: 52% Biden to 48% Trump 
  • The stock market: 57% Trump to 43% Biden

With months to go until voters cast their ballots, the poll suggests a neck-and-neck contest for the White House. Even as Trump faces widespread criticism over his preparedness for and response to the pandemic, voters think Biden is better equipped to combat it by only the narrowest of margins. 

Overall, 49% of respondents from the pivotal states approve of the job the president is doing, while 51% disapprove. He gets similar marks when voters are asked specifically about his response to the coronavirus: 48% approve and 52% disapprove. 

Covid-19 has dominated the 2020 campaign as it tears through the country. The disease has infected more than 825,000 people in the U.S. and killed at least 45,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data as of Wednesday. Business shutdowns intended to stop the disease's spread have led to more than 22 million people filing unemployment claims over the latest four-week period. 

Biden has had to cancel traditional events and transition to virtual campaigning and fundraising. Trump has used his administration's daily coronavirus updates to defend his track record and dominate the airwaves.

Views about the economy can shape how Americans vote in presidential election. Optimism has crumbled during the coronavirus crisis. 

Nationally, 68% of respondents think the economy is either probably or definitely in a recession, versus 27% who say it probably or definitely is not. Views break down differently in the six battleground states (though the share who think the economy is contracting is significantly larger than the the portion who thinks it is expanding). 

  • Arizona: 75% to 23% 
  • Florida: 72% to 24%
  • Michigan: 69% to 25%
  • North Carolina: 65% to 29% 
  • Pennsylvania: 71% to 23%
  • Wisconsin: 68% to 25%

Tune into CNBC on Wednesday for ongoing coverage of the poll's findings.

— Graphics by CNBC's John Schoen 

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