A new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll took the national political pulse during the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention, and found little sway in the allegiances of self-identified Republicans and Democrats. However, the poll revealed that independents may be the reason that Democratic nominee Joe Biden is polling ahead of President Donald Trump by 10 points (48%-38%) among respondents, when asked who they would vote for if the 2020 presidential elections were held today.
“We had a chance to field a large poll for the duration of both conventions that was large enough to track daily changes,” said Professor Shibley Telhami, Director of the Critical Issues Poll. “While Biden’s support increased daily during the Democratic convention and two days after, Trump’s support fluctuated during the Republican convention, increasing after the first day, dipping after the second day—the day after three Trump family members spoke, in addition to Secretary of State Pompeo—then rising again and spiking after Trump’s speech.”
Comparing the results of the first six days (combined total of 2,208 respondents, separately weighted to provide a nationally representative sample), with the results of the last five days (combined total of 1,724 respondents, also separately weighted), there was some overall change from 39% for Trump and 48% for Biden after the first period, to 37% and 50%, respectively, after the second period. The most notable change was among independents: from 16% to 14% for Trump and from 31% to 39% for Biden between the first and second periods.
Additional Key Findings
The poll also found that Democrats are more motivated to vote than Republicans, with 85% saying they are very motivated, compared to 80% for Republicans, with little change from one convention to the next.
“We also found through the poll that Trump himself is the most important factor in vote choice for all segments of the public, both for and against, confirming that the 2020 election is largely a referendum on him and his administration” said Professor Stella Rouse, the director of UMD’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, who also co-directs the Critical Issues Poll.
Overall, 39% of respondents said a vote against Trump and his agenda was most important, while another 25% said it was a vote to support Trump and his agenda. This compares with 27% who say the most important factor in their vote is that they agree with their preferred candidate’s policies, 7% who prioritize the Supreme Court, and 2% who prioritize their party loyalty. There was little change in these priorities from the first period to the second.
The poll included nearly 40 substantive questions focused on issues of race and the pandemic, with related questions that can be found in full on the Critical Issues Poll website.
One of the timely issues probed was attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement.
A majority of Americans have both a favorable view of Black Lives Matter and support the movement. The results changed somewhat during and after the Republican convention, but only at the margins. Support remained at 56% during the first six days of the poll covering the Democratic convention and post-convention to the five days covering the Republican convention and the day after.
Given the pandemic, most American (58%) remain opposed to K-12 school opening this fall, and most people (71%) say face masks should be mandatory in order to help slow down the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Illustration from Shuterstock