Change Research/ CNBC Poll: September 18-20, 2020
- Biden now leads by 9 points nationally (51% to 42%), and maintains his advantage across six battleground states.
- This survey entered the field on Friday evening as voters were informed of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nationally, only 37% of voters believe that Trump should be able to fill the open Supreme Court seat even if he loses the election in November.
- 2 to 1 voters nationally say that “The economy is struggling and we need more financial relief from Washington.”
- Nationally, 69% of voters continue to have serious concerns about COVID-19, including 63% of the Rust Belt battleground states and 66% of the Sunbelt battleground states.
- Just 42% of voters now say that they will definitely or probably get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
- Fully 28% of voters nationally and 32% in the battleground intend to vote by mail this year, while 39% nationally and in the battleground intend to vote in person on Election Day.
- Only 28% of voters in the competitive battleground states and 27% nationally say that we will know who won the election for president on election night.
Biden’s advantage grows nationally and in key states with the news of RBG’s passing
Biden now leads by 9 points nationally (51% to 42%), a 3 point shift in margin towards Biden over two weeks. This is Biden’s best performance nationally since late June at the height of the historic George Floyd protests, and is reasonably assumed to be a reaction to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump’s favorability has also taken a hit while opinions of Biden have improved. Nationally, Trump’s favorability is +16 net unfavorable (down from +13 net unfavorable two weeks ago), and opinions of Biden are net-neutral (48% favorable, 48% unfavorable), a 6 point shift over two weeks.
In the battleground, Biden maintains his advantage across all six of these states Trump carried in 2016.
The Senate ballots also favor Democrats:
- +8 Mark Kelly in Arizona (51 to 43) – this will be particularly important in the Democratic fight to prevent a SCOTUS appointment after the election as McSally is unelected.
- +6 Gary Peters (50 to 44) – Peters leads by 6 points, but it is worth pointing out that he underperforms Biden and John James is running ahead of Trump.
- +5 Cal Cunningham in North Carolina (48 to 43) – Tillis’s vote share trails Trumps by 3 points here.
Voters do not believe Trump should be able to appoint the next Supreme Court nominee if he loses, and trust Biden and Democrats more to appoint the next justice
Nationally, only 37% of voters believe that Trump should be able to fill the open Supreme Court seat even if he loses the election in November, and 57% believe that he should not be able to fill it if he loses.
Further, 1 in 10 voters nationally say that the ability to appoint a Supreme Court Justice is the single most important factor in their choice for president in November, and another 58% say that it is a very important factor. Of those who approve of Trump’s job performance 12% say it is the single most important factor and 64% say that it is at least a very important factor. By comparison, 71% of the larger group of voters who disapprove of Trump say that this is at least a very important factor, and 8% say it is the single most important factor. So, it is not clear that the conventional wisdom that Supreme Court politics are more motivating for Republicans is true here, and indeed it may be more important to Democrats.
Biden and Democrats are more trusted to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. Nationally, Biden and Democrats are preferred 54% to 46% and in the battleground, 51% to 49%.
Voters are desperate for more COVID-19 relief
With COVID-19 relief negotiations stalled and Senate Republicans now determined to consider a Supreme Court nominee, voters are unlikely to see more relief from Washington this year. But the voters could not be more clear about their priority – the economy, jobs and cost of living are the top issue nationally and in the battleground.
Asked which comes closer to their point of view about the economy, 2 to 1 voters nationally say that “The economy is struggling and we need more financial relief from Washington” over “The economy is recovering and we do not need any more financial relief from Washington.” Almost every Democrat (97%), 62% of pure independents, and even 32% of Republicans believe that more assistance is necessary. And this is also true in the most competitive battleground states where 62% – including large majorities in every state – say that the economy is struggling and needs more relief from Washington.
For context, fully 33% of voters nationally and 30% of battleground state voters say that they or someone in the household is currently experiencing lost wages or a salary cut, and 23% nationally and 20% in the battleground say that they or someone in their household is currently experiencing a job loss or furlough. The impact on households is widespread and ongoing.
The Biden campaign is making an effort to define the race as one between Fifth Avenue and Wall Street v. Scranton and Main Street. In our survey, 73% of battleground voters say that the stock market is doing well compared to just 45% who say that of the job market and 45% who say that of the economy. Though Trump has consistently had his greatest performance on the stock market (56% approve in this survey), our surveys have consistently found that majorities do not believe that the stock market is an accurate reflection of the real economy, and voters give Trump weaker ratings when it comes to helping their pocketbook (50% of battleground voters approve in this survey).
Just 20% of voters say the stock market performance is very important to their financial situation personally, and just 53% say that it is at least somewhat important. As you would expect, those who approve of Trump are more likely to say that it is at least somewhat important (66%) compared to those who disapprove of him (42%). The relevance of the stock market is also concentrated among those in households making over $100K a year: 66% say the stock market is at least somewhat important, compared to 56% of those with household incomes between $50-100K, and 36% in households making less than $50K, which is nearly half of the country.
Voters remain deeply concerned about COVID-19, do not believe that things are getting better, and know that it will be a long time until things are normal again
Nationally, 69% of voters continue to have serious concerns about COVID-19, including 63% of the Rust Belt battleground states and 66% of the Sunbelt battleground states. The idea that things are getting better when it comes to COVID-19 is still a minority position nationally (42%). As many say that things are getting worse (40%) and 18% are uncertain. All of this is unchanged from the last time we surveyed, despite evidence that we are on the verge of another surge like the ones we saw after past holiday weekends.
In this survey, we see the same increase in people no longer sheltering at home, no longer avoiding bars and restaurants, no longer avoiding crowds and no longer social distancing that precipitated the june wave of cases. In fact, never have fewer people been sheltering at home or avoiding restaurants and bars since the start of this pandemic. This should be very concerning. The only good news is that the rate of mask wearing has remained consistently high at 80% since late July.
As the President begins to host indoor campaign rallies, 61% of voters say that is unsafe at this stage in the pandemic. Movie theaters have also started to reopen, though 56% say that this is unsafe. Just 37% of voters believe that it is safe for students to return to school at this phase in the virus and just 34% say daycare is safe. But as the NFL and others begin to play, nearly half of voters (46%) say that it is safe to attend an outdoor sporting event right now, and only 36% say this is unsafe.
Voters’ expectations of when things will be normal align somewhat well with what we are hearing from public health experts. Dr. Fauci has advised voters that life will return to normal late in 2021. When asked when their life will return to a sense of normalcy, 33% nationally, 27% in the Sunbelt battleground states and 29% in the Rust Belt battleground states say that this will be more than a year from now. Fully 62% nationally say things will be normal for them in 6 months or more from now. Just 13% nationally and 19% in the battleground say that their life has already returned to normal.
What is most striking is how little this has changed this late May when we last asked this. At the time 14% nationally said that their lives had already returned to normal, 32% said that it would be more than one year until their lives were back to normal, and fully 56% said that would take at least 6 months. Of course that was what people expected 4 months ago, reflecting just how poorly we have done combatting this virus.
Voters fear the COVID-19 vaccine is being politicized and fewer than half want to take it
Just 42% of voters now say that they will definitely or probably get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. This is down considerably since late July when 58% of likely voters nationally said they were likely to get the vaccine. At that time 57% of Democrats said they would definitely get a vaccine, but that number has shrunk to only 30%.
As President Trump suggests that a vaccine may be available by “a very special day,” voters express concern that ‘President Trump is pushing to release a COVID-19 vaccine too quickly in order to help his re-election chances.’ Nationally, 61% are concerned about that, as are 57% of battleground voters.
As a reminder, voters trust Biden and Democrats more to both handle COVID-19 (53% in the battleground, 57% nationally) and to rely on facts and science to make decisions (54% in the battleground, 58% nationally).
One-in-three voters nationally intend to vote by mail, and are taking action early to ensure their vote is counted.
Fully 28% of voters nationally and 32% in the battleground intend to vote by mail this year, while 39% nationally and in the battleground intend to vote in person on Election Day. The rest will vote early in person or are unsure. That is actually down a few points nationally since we last surveyed, when 33% said they would vote by mail.
As we have seen consistently in our surveys, Democrats are more likely to vote by mail (44% nationally, 54% in the battleground), compared to Republicans (8% nationally, 10% in the battleground). It is worth pointing out that only 20% of voters in North Carolina intend to vote by mail in this state where Republicans have been caught tampering with mail-in ballots in the recent past.
Just 46% nationally are very or somewhat confident that their vote will be counted if they vote by mail in the upcoming election, down from 52% in early August. There is greater confidence among Democrats (77% confident in the battleground) than among Republicans (14%). By contrast, a 71% majority of voters in the battleground are confident that “It will be safe for everyone who wants to vote to vote in-person on Election Day.” That is driven by Republicans, 94% of whom say they are very confident in the safety of voting on Election Day compared to 49% of Democrats, reflecting their greater concern about the coronavirus. That is up from 58% in early August, even though voters were as concerned then about COVID-19 as they are now.
This survey also reflects the large numbers of mail in ballot requests that Democrats have been seeing in competitive states: 92% of likely 2020 voters who plan to vote by mail in the competitive battleground states claim that they have already requested their mail in ballot, including over 9-in-10 mail-in-voters in every state except for Arizona (85%). And voters in many of these states are not leaving anything to chance. Of those who intend to vote by mail, majorities in every state except for North Carolina and Arizona say that they will return their ballot at a drop-box or at the election office instead of through the USPS. The number who intend to drop off their ballots in Michigan (83%) is particularly remarkable.
Voters know that this election will take longer to count, understand Biden voters are more likely to vote by mail, and say every vote must be counted no matter how long it takes
So much of how voters react to the counting process and claims to victory revolve around voters’ expectations. Half of voters nationally and 52% of voters in the battleground states believe that Trump will win the presidential election. That does not reflect the ballot but it demonstrates that voters do not give Trump a large expectation advantage entering into this debate. Voters have also been paying attention, and are aware that Biden voters are more likely to vote by mail (79% in the battleground say Biden will win more of the votes cast by mail), and voters are aware the Trump voters are more likely to vote in person (62% say Trump will win more of the votes cast in person). Democrats believe that Biden will win most of the votes cast by mail and in person, and Republicans believe that Trump will win most of the votes cast in person, but that Biden will win most of the ballots cast by mail. That is important context if Trump tries to prevent mail in ballots from being counted.
Voters are also aware that the election is very unlikely to be called the night of the election this year due to the unprecedented mail in voting. Only 28% of voters in the competitive battleground states and 27% nationally say that we will know who won the election for president on election night. Democrats are more likely to understand this compared to Republicans (17% and 39%, respectively), but it is notable that fewer than half of Republicans believe this will be called on Election Night. Again, that is important context if President Trump tries to call this race over too soon. That said, 69% of Democrats, 62% of pure independents, and 66% of Republicans nationally think that we will know the results within a week.
No matter how long it takes to count the votes, 77% nationally and 75% in the battleground agree that “We must count every ballot, even if it takes longer to determine the outcome of the election.” And that includes all who disapprove of Trump (94% nationally) and a majority of those who approve of Trump (54% nationally).
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Change Research conducted a poll of 3,018 likely voters September 18-20, 2020 across 6 competitive battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. A companion national survey of 1,430 likely voters was also conducted September 18-20, 2020. Unless otherwise stated, the results presented in this analysis are among battleground state voters. The margin of error, as traditionally calculated, is ±1.79% for the battleground and ±2.59% for the national poll. 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.
This is the fourteenth in a series of bi-monthly battleground state and national surveys that CNBC & Change Research will conduct in 2020.