Change Research/ CNBC Poll: September 4-6, 2020
- Biden leads by 6 points nationally (49 Biden to 43 Trump) and in every battleground state (+4 in Arizona, +3 in Florida, +6 in Michigan, +2 in North Carolina, +4 in Pennsylvania, +6 in Wisconsin)
- Of those who watched the RNC, 62% of battleground voters and 58% nationally had a positive reaction to Trump’s speech. By comparison, 71% of battleground DNC viewers and 70% of DNC viewers nationally had positive reactions to Biden’s speech.
- 53% of voters nationally and 52% of battleground voters, including 54% of Wisconsin voters and 8-in-10 black voters, believe that Donald Trump’s reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha and the subsequent protests has been mostly harmful.
- A 53% majority of battleground voters, including 56% of Wisconsinites, and 56% nationally believe that Biden and Democrats would do a better job of “reducing tensions between protesters and counter-protesters”
- 67% nationally say the stock market is in excellent or good condition while only 40% say so of the US job market and of the US economy.
Key metrics incredibly stable despite conventions and national protests
Nationally, Biden leads by 6 points (49 Biden to 43 Trump) – just as he did in early August prior to the conventions. Trump’s job performance is identical to his ratings pre-RNC with 55% disapproving of the job he is doing as president, and opinions of him personally are similarly unchanged since pre-RNC at +13 net unfavorable. While Biden saw a small improvement in his favorability ratings post-DNC, his favorability rating returned to pre-DNC levels in this poll (+6 net unfavorable).
In the competitive battleground, Biden leads by 4 points, this is stable over the past 4 waves going back to the last survey in July. Biden leads in every state, including Wisconsin which has been the focus of protests and had visits from both presidential candidates (50 Biden, 44 Trump). Trump’s job performance was also unchanged with 48% approving of him pre and post RNC in the battleground, as were Trump and Biden’s favorability ratings in the battleground (+7 net unfavorable and +4 net unfavorable, respectively.
Democrats lead across all three Senate ballots. In AZ, Kelly leads McSally by 6 points (51 to 45). In MI, Peters leads James by 4 points (50 to 46), and James is outperforming Trump (+6 Biden v. +4 Peters). In NC, Cunningham is leading by 7 points (51 to 44), and outperforming Biden considerably (+2 Biden v. +7 Cunningham).
The DNC vs RNC
A 62% majority nationally and 61% in the battleground report having watched the Republican National Convention, and roughly one-in-four voters watched all of it (23% nationally, 25% in the battleground). That is consistent with the numbers who planned to watch the RNC in our last surveys (62% nationally and 59% of the battleground intended to watch the RNC) and is on par with the reported viewership of the DNC in our last survey (watched by 64% nationally and by 57% of the battleground).
Just as a large minority of Republicans tuned into the DNC (43% nationally, 35% in the battleground), a large minority of Democrats tuned into the RNC (45% nationally, 44% in the battleground). In fact, Democrats in the battleground states were more likely than battleground state Republicans to “hate watch” the RNC.
There were fewer positive reactions to Trump’s speech among RNC viewers compared to Biden’s speech among DNC viewers. Of those who watched the RNC, 62% of battleground voters and 58% nationally had a positive reaction to Trump’s speech. By comparison, 71% of battleground DNC viewers and 70% of DNC viewers nationally had positive reactions to Biden’s speech.
Much of the conventions focused on the character of the two men running, so we asked voters how well various descriptions described Biden and Trump after their conventions. Nationally, voters were far more likely to say that positive attributes describe Biden than they were to say they describe Trump, but voters in the battleground were equally likely to say that those traits described each candidate well. The one exception to this rule is the response to “experienced” where only 46% of battleground voters say that describes Trump well even after almost 4 years as president compared to 62% who say this describes Biden well. On the flip side, the attribute that best describes Biden was that he is a ‘typical politician’ while this was the attribute that describes Trump least. While we did not test these of Joe Biden, we found that majorities disagree that Trump keeps his promises, tells the truth, and maintains a cool, level-head during a crisis.
The in-person RNC vs protests
Conventions looked very different this year, as just 37% of battleground voters and 32% nationally believe it is safe to attend an indoor campaign rally at this stage in the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike the DNC, the RNC opted to include some outdoor speeches where people were not wearing masks. Voters are considerably more likely to say that campaign rallies are safe when outdoors (49% in the battleground, 43% nationally), but even more consider them safe if attendees wear masks (58% in the battleground, 59% nationally).
Wearing a mask made no difference to Republicans, but was critical to independents and Democrats. The same was true when we asked voters if it was safe to attend an outdoor protest versus whether it was safe to attend an outdoor protest where attendees wore masks. Notably, Democrats were more likely to say that attending an outdoor protest was safe compared to attending an outdoor campaign rally (26% safe versus 13%, nationally), perhaps reflecting the presumption of mask-wearing which are commonplace at protests. Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely to say that attending an outdoor campaign rally is safe compared to attending an outdoor protest safe at this stage of the outbreak (78% safe versus 51% safe). While it is possible that some are expressing a reaction to the increasingly violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters instead of the risk of COVID-19, we saw this same phenomenon in the wake of the overwhelmingly peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd as well. Indeed, this is the least safe activity according to GOP voters, even less safe than going to a bar (58% safe nationally).
Protests, conflict, and race relations
This survey fielded in the days following Trump’s visit to Kenosha, and 53% of voters nationally and 52% of battleground voters, including 54% of Wisconsin voters and 8-in-10 black voters, believe that Donald Trump’s reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha and the subsequent protests has been mostly harmful. Only 23% of voters nationally and in the battleground felt his response was mostly helpful, though 32% of Wisconsin voters found his response helpful. Critically, fewer than half of Republicans believe that his response was helpful (49% nationally and the battleground). Voters’ reactions to Trump’s response to the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests were identical — 52% of battleground voters said his response in June was mostly harmful, and only 23% said his June response was mostly helpful.
While opinions of Black Lives Matter are net neutral in the battleground (46% favorable, 46% unfavorable) and +4 net favorable nationally, people protesting for criminal justice reform are +19 net favorable in the battleground and +24 net favorable nationally. Opinions of armed militia groups patrolling protests, on the other hand, are +41 net negative in the battleground (23% favorable, 64% unfavorable) and as unpopular nationally (+42 net unfavorable).
Majorities disapprove of the job Trump is doing “improving race relations in America” (57% disapprove nationally, 53% disapprove in the battleground), including 90% of African American and 66% of Latinx voters.
The Trump campaign has used the violent clashes between BLM protesters and counter-protesters to paint a picture about the Biden presidency, and Democrats have been quick to point out the clashes are happening on Trump’s watch. Majorities do disapprove of the job Trump is doing “keeping communities safe” (56% disapprove nationally, 52% disapprove in the battleground), but fewer believe that “at the end of the day, Donald Trump is responsible for the current violence in the country because he is the President.“ Nationally, 51% agreed with that, but in the battleground, only 48% agreed.
A 53% majority of battleground voters, including 56% of Wisconsinites, and 56% nationally do believe that Biden and Democrats would do a better job of “reducing tensions between protesters and counter-protesters”; similarly, 52% of battleground voters, 55% of Wisconsinites, and 55% nationally trust Biden and Democrats more to handle “police violence and discrimination” and the same numbers trust Biden and Democrats more to “bring our country together in times of national crisis.”
In our June 12-14 wave following the death of George Floyd we found 61% of battleground voters and 64% nationally agreed that “we should invest more in education, mental health, and social services and spend less on policing.” After a 3 month campaign focused on the perils of defunding the police, agreement with that statement has eroded a few points, but a large 58% majority nationally and 55% in the battleground still agree with this idea about police funding. At the same time, opinions of ‘your local police department’ are +61 net favorable in the battleground and +50 net favorable nationally. Voters are clearly able to hold both of these things in their minds without conflict.
The economy, jobs and cost of living remain the #1 issue in this election, with 42% nationally and 43% in the battleground saying this is one of the top three issues from a list of fifteen issues.
For the first time we included “political corruption” in this list, and it was tied with COVID-19 (37% corruption, 36% COVID nationally and 38% corruption, 35% COVID in the battleground) as a top issue. Base Republicans were considerably more likely to say political corruption was a top issue compared to base Democrats (47% and 26% in the battleground, respectively), and it was also important to 42% of independents.
The third tier of top issues includes health care and prescription drug costs (26%), which have consistently been important, as well as ‘racism and discrimination (27%) and ‘law and order’ (29%). For base Democrats, racism and discrimination is the second most critical issue (51%) after COVID-19, with the economy and health care costs tied for third (32% and 34%, respectively). Base Republicans, on the other hand, prioritize law and order (58%), the economy (53%), and political corruption (47%). The phrase ‘law and order’ sends a loud signal to Trump supporters, as crime has been far less important to voters when we included it on this list in place of the Trump rhetoric. While we cannot make an apples to apples comparison because this survey included political corruption in the issues forced-choice question, even among the GOP the issue of crime was tied with immigration and national security as an issue in the last national survey (36%, 38% and 38%, respectively).
The stock market and the economy
Last week saw considerable news coverage of the historic stock market gains despite the high unemployment rate. This is reflected in our survey where 67% nationally say the stock market is in excellent or good condition while only 40% say so of the US job market and of the US economy. While Trump has consistently been given his highest marks for his handling of the stock market (54% approve nationally, 55% approve in the battleground), only 44% of voters nationally and 48% in the battleground agree that “the stock market is an accurate reflection of the strength of the real economy.” This explains why Trump’s approval on the economy and helping your pocketbook routinely trails perceptions of his handling of the stock market (49% nationally, 50% in the battleground approve of his handling of the economy, 47% nationally, 50% in the battleground approve of his job helping their pocketbook).
On the critical question of who would do a better job handling recovery from a recession between Trump and Biden, battleground voters are split 50-50 between Trump and Republicans and Biden and Democrats, while voters nationally are split 51% Biden and Democrats, 49% Trump and Republicans. But so far, a 52% majority in the battleground and 54% nationally disagree that Trump has done enough to help working Americans make it through the current economic downturn.
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Change Research conducted a poll of 4,143 likely voters September 4-6, 2020 across 6 competitive battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. A companion national survey of 1,902 likely voters was also conducted September 4-6, 2020. Unless otherwise stated, the results presented in this analysis are among battleground state voters. The margin of error, as traditionally calculated, is ±1.4% for the battleground and ±2.25% for the national poll. Change Research reaches voters via targeted online ads that point people to an online survey instrument and via text to web from a voter file sample. 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.
This is the 13th in a series of bi-monthly battleground state and national surveys that CNBC & Change Research will conduct in 2020.