Battleground Voters on COVID-19

CNBC/ Change Research Poll in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin: March 9-11, 2020

Key Findings

A majority of voters have serious concerns about the coronavirus disease. A 53% majority say they have serious concerns about the coronavirus, and 20% have very serious concerns. Concerns are highest among older voters, with 64% of seniors expressing serious concerns, compared to 44% of 18-34 year olds. Nevertheless, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to express concerns. Over three-quarters of Democrats have serious concerns about coronavirus (76%), while almost 7-in-10 Republicans have minor or no concerns at all (69%).

This survey was conducted before President Trump banned travel from Europe and declared a national emergency, among other high profile escalations of the crisis domestically. We therefore expect awareness and concern to have increased even further since this survey was fielded.

Thinking about the impact of the coronavirus, a majority of voters have serious concerns that they or a family member will get sick, but voters are most concerned that it will lead to a recession. A 51% majority has serious concerns that they or a family member will get sick, but an even larger 57% has serious concerns that the coronavirus will produce a recession (57%). While 57% of voters said the U.S. economy was excellent or good, that fell to 46% for the stock market, and 45% for their own personal savings.

A significant minority is concerned about how this will impact their own bottom lines. So far, two-thirds of voters give their own employers positive marks for their response to the coronavirus outbreak (23% excellent, 44% good), and 5% reported having experienced cut hours at work. But thinking ahead, over one-in-three voters are seriously concerned about the prospect of lost wages (35%) with 17% saying they have very serious concerns. While 64% of voters have no concerns at all about the prospect of losing their job, that is still a serious concern for 16% of people. Women, particularly non-college educated women, are more likely than non-college educated men to have serious concerns about lost wages (39% serious for women, 31% for men) or losing their job (22% serious for women, 12% for men). People of color were also far more likely to have these concerns.

Voters in the battleground were already beginning to take action in response to the coronavirus as this survey fielded. A 54% majority said that they or a member of their family had taken steps to prepare for the coronavirus disease. People of color were the most likely to report having taken actions in preparation. Women were more likely to have taken action than men and 35-49 year olds and seniors were more likely than other age cohorts to have taken action.

Of those who had taken action, they were most likely report taking precautions like hand-washing (94%), avoiding crowds (64%), and purchasing medical supplies like medicine, sanitizer, or masks (48%). Over one-third reported storing food (36%), almost three-in-ten had cancelled a trip (29%), and 14% had worked from home. Seniors were the most likely to report avoiding crowds (74%) and cancelling trips (33%).

Regardless of whether they themselves had taken action, voters were seeing the impact of coronavirus in their daily lives and on the economy by the start of this week. Two-thirds reported experiencing low inventory at stores and online and one-third experienced increased prices for supplies at stores and online. Already 62% of voters said that the current state of the cost of living was only fair or poor, and 59% of voters were worried and uncertain about the cost of living looking ahead to the next year. A 51% majority reported a decrease in the value of their investments. (This is about how many voters in this survey reported checking what is going on with the stock market once a week or more (53%).) This may be one reason why just 45% of voters were satisfied with the current state of their own savings and just 46% were satisfied with the state of the stock market.

When it comes to actions the government may take, the picture is less clear. When asked their opinions of the Federal Reserve, 45% of voters did not know enough about it to offer a positive or negative opinion. When it comes to the idea of government bailouts of industries hit hardest by the coronavirus, voters had mixed opinions (46% support, 38% oppose, 16% unsure). It is reasonable to expect that the industries involved will make a difference. Lawmakers should know that voters here are split in their impressions of the airline industry (28% favorable, 31% unfavorable ) and are intensely negative towards CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (-33), and Wall Street banks (-35).

Voters give doctors and medical professionals, their own employers, and their state and local governments that highest grades for their response to the coronavirus, but are much less satisfied with the response of the federal government, the President in particular. The response of doctors and medical professionals is excellent or good according to 84% of battleground voters. Majority also give positive marks to their employers (67%) and their state and local governments (62%). Less than half of voters are satisfied with the response of the federal government thus far (49%) and of President Trump (48%). Indeed, intense negative reactions to President Trump’s handling of coronavirus are equal to the number of total positive responses, as 48% give him the worst possible grade of poor. (By comparison, just 29% say the federal government is doing a poor job). It is worth noting the deeply partisan response to the President’s handling of the virus, as 94% of Republicans are satisfied compared to 97% of Democrats who are not. Independents are split but a 54% majority give him negative marks.

In these battleground states that Donald Trump carried in 2016, voters are split evenly over whether Trump or one of the Democratic candidate for president would do a better job handling the crisis. When asked who they thought would do a better job handling coronavirus between Donald Trump and Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, voters were split (50 Biden, 50 Trump and 51 Sanders, 49 Trump). And even after the last week, voters prefer Trump to both Democrats when it comes to the stock market (58% against Sanders, 55% against Biden) and the economy (54% against Sanders, 53% against Biden).

Even though majorities are concerned and disappointed by the presidents handling of coronavirus, it is still not close to the number one voting issue for battleground voters – healthcare. Only 9% said that the coronavirus was the most important factor to their vote in November, and only 9% said the stock market was (though the stock market was much more likely to be one of several important factors – 45% versus 29%). Much more important to voters is the candidates’ approach to healthcare, with 43% saying this is the most important factor.


Sample & Methodology

Change Research surveyed 2,483 likely general election voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The margin of error as traditionally calculated among the battleground sample is ±2.0%. Change Research reaches voters via targeted online ads that point people to an online survey instrument. Our Dynamic Online Sampling establishes and continuously rebalances advertising targets across region, age, gender, race, and partisanship to dynamically deliver large samples that accurately reflect the demographics of a population. Post stratification was done on state, gender, age, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote.

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