UMD Critical Issues Poll Sheds Light on Impact of Party Conventions, Shows Biden Lead

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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 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.

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 86% 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 forty 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 Americans (59%) 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).

For full results on the poll, including both the questionnaire and crosstabs by date, at the Critical Issues Poll website.

About the Poll

The poll started on August 18, on the second day of the Democratic convention, and concluded on August 28, the day after the Republican National Convention wrapped up. This iteration of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll carried out a large survey of 3,932 respondents, 94% of whom were registered voters, fielded by Nielsen Scarborough.

The survey probed attitudes toward the November election, the pandemic, race relations, and other related issues. With day stamps, it tracked daily attitudes, regarding Joe Biden and Donald Trump, as well as key issues of the day, including ones that were the subjects of both conventions. In addition, the analysts combined the data from the first six days that preceded the Republican Convention, with the data from the five days spanning the GOP convention and the day after.

To get a meaningful comparison, the analysts also weighted each party separately, across party and national demographic lines, providing two distinct nationally representative samples, one with 2,208 respondents (for dates August 18-August 23), the second with 1,724 respondents (for dates August 24-28).

Launched in 2016, the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll probes domestic and international issues that are central for our policy discourse. It includes foreign policy questions, especially those related to the Middle Eastern region, and economic and political domestic issues such as race issues, demographic changes in the United States, among other issues. The directors’ aim is to examine those issues in a timely fashion in order to engage ongoing policy debates.

http://www.criticalissues.umd.edu

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