Swing state analysis: Top issues for Pennsylvania voters in the 2024 presidential election

Pennsylvania will once again be one of the most crucial battleground states in the 2024 presidential election

With former President Donald Trump taking Pennsylvania by a razor-thin margin in 2016 and President Joe Biden edging out a win over Trump in 2020, if the election were held today, political observers in the Keystone State say it’s hard to predict who would come out on top. 

"Of states that are considered to be viable/in play, [Pennsylvania] is the largest in terms of electoral votes," Christopher Borick, a political science professor and director of Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, explained. "When you look at the key swing states in this particular election cycle, Pennsylvania stands out."

Pennsylvania fast facts:

  • Population: 12.78 million
  • Registered Democrats: 3,894,977
  • Registered Republicans: 3,498,954
  • Registered other party voters: 1,326,386
  • Governor: Josh Shapiro (Democrat)
  • Electoral college votes: 19 (out of 270 needed to win)

How Pennsylvania voted in 2020

Joe Biden took Pennsylvania by about 80,500 votes, a little more than a 1% margin, Borick said. 

How Pennsylvania voted in 2016

Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes in the 2016 election, or about a .5% margin. 

View of the American Liberty Bell on display in the Liberty Bell Pavilion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 9th 1976. (Photo by UPI/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Top issues for Pennsylvania voters in 2024

Borick said like many states, inflation/the economy, reproductive rights and border security are at the top of voters’ minds. 

Issue: Economy/inflation

What Biden has said

The economy under Biden has grown significantly since he took office amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment remains low at 4%, and the stock market has risen this year. 

Biden largely takes credit for the strengthening economy, but because of the 2022 spike in inflation and the increase in interest rates to counter it, many in the U.S. are pessimistic about the economy and Biden’s ability to improve it. 

RELATED: Fed holds interest rates steady, projects just one cut this year

Biden has told voters that companies should pay more in taxes – and he blames many businesses for fueling higher prices by stoking "greedflation" and "shrinkflation."

What Trump has said

Trump repeatedly has called the economy during his presidency "the greatest in history," though the truth is much more complicated. 

If the 2020 pandemic is excluded, growth after inflation averaged 2.67% under Trump, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Include the pandemic-induced recession and that average drops to an anemic 1.45%.

RELATED: States with the best and worst economies in 2024

By contrast, growth during the second term of then-President Barack Obama averaged 2.33%. So far under Biden, annual growth is averaging 3.4%.

Trump has told CEOs if he’s elected, he plans to cut the corporate tax rate even more than he did during his first term. Trump and congressional Republicans cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, and Trump now says he wants the corporate tax rate even lower. Unlike the other tax cuts passed during Trump’s term, the corporate tax rate reduction is permanent. 

Issue: Reproductive rights

What Biden has said

Abortion rights boosted Democrats in the 2022 midterms, months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended a constitutional right to the procedure. But it remains a more nuanced issue for Biden than other leaders in his party. 

Biden has said as a practicing Catholic, "I’m not big on abortion." 

"But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right," he has said on multiple occasions.

Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to restore Roe v. Wade protections, and his administration has made several moves to improve reproductive health care access, The Associated Press reported. His administration defended the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone and supported the agency in allowing pharmacies to get certified to dispense the drug.

Federal agencies under Biden also have improved abortion access for veterans and service members, issued guidance reminding abortion providers of their federal protections when performing abortions during medical emergencies, and filed lawsuits to defend the right to travel to another state for abortion care.

What Trump has said

Trump has taken credit for appointing three Supreme Court justices who made overturning Roe v. Wade possible.

But in April, after much speculation and mixed messaging, he stopped short of endorsing a national abortion ban. 

RELATED: Trump's latest abortion statement draws ire from pro-life groups

"Many people have asked me what my position is on abortion and abortion rights," Trump said in a video posted on his Truth Social site. "My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state."

RELATED: 'Right to IVF Act' blocked by Senate Republicans in latest battle

In February, Trump came out in support of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that led some providers in the state to suspend their in vitro fertilization programs. 

Issue: Immigration

What Biden has said

Biden’s actions on immigration have angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  

In early June, he announced he would halt asylum processing at the U.S.-Mexico border when illegal entries reach a certain threshold. The measure took effect immediately because the new policy is triggered when arrests for illegal entry reach 2,500. About 4,000 people were already entering the U.S. each day. Advocates say the policy puts migrants in danger and violates international obligations to provide safe haven to people whose lives are threatened.

RELATED: Border arrests plummet 40% following Biden's executive order on asylum process

A few weeks later, he tried to balance his aggressive action at the border by allowing certain U.S. citizens’ spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country. The order could offer eventual citizenship to some 500,000 migrants. 

What Trump has said

Trump has cast migrants as dangerous criminals "poisoning the blood" of America.

If he’s elected, Trump has pledged to "immediately stop the invasion of our southern border" and end illegal immigration, according to The Associated Press. 

He says he would immediately issue an executive order directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to undertake the largest domestic deportation operation in American history. He would target people who are legally living in the United States but harbor "jihadist sympathies" and revoke the student visas of those who espouse anti-American and antisemitic views.

Trump says he will move thousands of troops currently stationed overseas and shift federal agents, including those at the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI, to immigration enforcement. He also wants to build more of the border wall.

Trump wants to reimpose his travel ban that originally targeted seven Muslim-majority countries and expand it to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the country." In the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel, he has pledged to put in place "ideological screening" for immigrants. 

Pennsylvanians focused on energy policy

Pennsylvania is a big energy-producing state with a lot of natural gas production and energy exports, Borick said. 

"Therefore any issues concerning energy … it has reach not only to those in the industry, but those that support the industry, including unions, which do a lot of the construction work in those areas," Borick said. 

What Biden has said

Biden has unleashed a flurry of election-year rules on the environment and energy as his administration races to meet ambitious policy goals. Those include a landmark regulation that would force coal-fired power plants to capture smokestack emissions or shut down, and a promise to cut carbon emissions that are driving climate change roughly in half by 2030. 

READ MORE: New report ranks the most polluted places in the U.S.

The Biden administration has supported a big push for electric vehicles, and he also wants to raise the fuel economy of new vehicles 18% by the 2032 model year.

If re-elected, he would be expected to continue offering financial incentives for clean energy projects. 

What Trump has said

One of Trump’s main mantras when it comes to energy policy is "Drill, baby, drill."

Trump says he wants the U.S. to have the cheapest energy and electricity in the world. He supports increasing oil drilling on public lands, offering tax breaks to oil, gas and coal producers, speeding up the approval of natural gas pipelines, and rolling back the Biden administration’s environmental regulations. 

What else experts say about Pennsylvania

There are few places in the country as evenly divided as Pennsylvania. The state House, which has 203 members, has a one-member Democratic majority. And in the state Senate, Republicans have a hold there by only three members. 

Since 2008, Republican voter registration has grown at a faster rate than Democrats  — Democrats went from a 12% advantage in April 2008 to about a 4% advantage in April 2024, according to a report from Spotlight PA

"It's an incredibly divided state, which reflects what Pennsylvania is,"Borick explained. "It has a very large urban area in the southeast, around Philadelphia, also a fairly mid-sized urban area in the Pittsburgh area out west. But it also has one of the largest rural populations in the entire United States."

2024 swing states: Read more

The Associated Press contributed to this report.