Category: Press Releases and Announcements

Title: Three Months Out From The Election, President Trump Faces Eroding Support On The Economy, Major Challenges with Independent, Suburban, And Middle Class Voters

Date Published: August 10, 2020

Americans Trust Vice President Joe Biden More Than President Trump on Key Issues

Democrats Have Much More Narrow Lead on Congressional Ballot

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a highly energized and polarized electorate, President Trump faces eroding support on the economy and with key demographic groups just 85 days until the election.

These findings in the latest Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll, conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, indicate the President is facing major headwinds for his reelection as the two parties head into their national conventions.

Eight-in-ten (80%) of likely voters indicate that they are extremely likely to vote. Trump voters (80% extremely likely) and Biden voters (82% extremely likely) are at near parity in terms of enthusiasm about voting. In terms of polarization, just seven percent (7%) of voters are undecided on the Presidential ballot and more than eight-in-ten (81%) voters say they have made a definite choice for President, underscoring just how narrow a path the President has to turn things around for his campaign.

Over the course of previous Battleground Polls conducted during the Trump administration, significant numbers of reluctant Trump supporters said they were willing to put up with the President’s persona in exchange for economic prosperity. The latest Battleground Poll reveals that the current economic climate no longer upholds this bargain, as a majority (54%) of middle-class voters feel the President has both the wrong style and the wrong approach on key issues.

The most decisive issues for the 2020 Presidential election look to be economic recovery, jobs, and the COVID-19 pandemic – all issues where President Trump has seen his numbers fall since the last Battleground Poll. Specifically:

– When it comes to the economy, 49% of voters say they have more confidence in Biden, while 47% have more confidence in Trump. Independents follow a similar pattern with 46% who have more confidence in Biden and 42% Trump.
– President Trump’s job approval rating is upside down on economic recovery (47% approve/50% disapprove) and on dealing with COVID-19 crisis (38% approve/60% disapprove).
– More than three-in-ten voters (31%) report that their household has been directly impacted by unemployment either by losing their job themselves (9%), having an immediate family member lose their job (17%), or both (5%). If the election were held today, a solid majority of unemployment impacted voters (58%) would vote for Biden.
– There has been a major spike in the number of Americans who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Respondents see the country as headed on the wrong track by an overwhelming 50-point margin (72-22%). In the October 2019 Battleground Poll, that margin was 58-35%.

“The latest Battleground Poll shows the President in real trouble, driven in large part by his eroding support on the economic questions. Vice President Joe Biden is leading, tied, or within the margin on every economic issue we tested,” said Mo Elleithee, Executive Director of the Institute for Politics and Public Service. “The one thing that has kept the President competitive in previous polls has been support for his record on the economy. But major defections by middle-class, suburban and independent voters fueled by dissatisfaction with his approach on COVID and the economic recovery, threaten to put this election out of reach unless he fundamentally changes the dynamic of the race.”

The survey also found:

The Congressional Ballot is Much More Competitive than the Presidential

Despite all the political environmental winds in their face – Biden’s double-digit lead, Trump’s declining support among middle class voters, voters trending toward Biden on key issues – the generic Congressional ballot finds Republicans at a disadvantage of just six points (44%-50%). In terms of intensity, there are as many Republicans (91%) selecting the GOP on the generic Congressional ballot as there are Democrats (91%) selecting the Democrat candidate. In addition, Republicans have majority support among key Congressional voting blocs like rural voters (57%), white seniors (53%), and voters with some college education (50%). Democrats see a 9-point drop in support between Biden and the generic Congressional Democrat among white suburban women, a 6-point drop among independents, and a 5-point drop with college graduates.

Voter Sentiment On COVID-19 Response

Only 38% of respondents said they approve of how President Trump is handling COVID-19, while 60% said they disapprove. Urban respondents, who have been hit harder by the virus, disapprove at a much higher rate (75%) than rural voters (50%). African American and Latinx voters also strongly disapprove of the President’s performance at 86% and 64% respectively.

Dr. Anthony Fauci enjoys higher favorable ratings than Biden or Trump, with 55% of voters saying they feel favorably towards him, and only 20% saying they feel unfavorably. Out of voters who disapprove of Trump’s handling of COVID-19, 75% feel favorably towards Dr. Fauci and only 4% say they feel unfavorably. Conversely, only 26% of voters who approve of Trump’s COVID-19 response say they approve of Dr. Fauci, and 45% say they disapprove.

Trump’s Declining Support With Middle Class Voters

The declining support of white middle-class voters translates directly to ballot support of Donald Trump in this latest Battleground data. Last October we tested the President against a “generic” Democratic nominee. (As Celinda Lake has pointed out over the last thirty years of conducting Battleground Polls, the generic candidate gives you the strongest results because voters assume the positive qualities and have no negatives put before them). In that October study, Donald Trump led on the ballot with white middle-class voters by nine-points. In this latest Battleground Poll, on a Trump/Biden presidential ballot, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 52% to Donald Trump’s 44% and with the “definite” vote leads 47% to 38% among middle-class voters. Normally a successful nationwide Republican campaign is winning a majority of middle-class voters, driven by winning white middle-class voters by about twenty-points.

Views Of Presidential Candidates

If the election were held today, this data points to a Biden win and most likely a fairly decisive one. However, the election is not today or even in the near future. Over two full months remain for events, campaign tactics, and debates to intervene. Right now, for many voters this Presidential election is about Trump versus an inoffensive alternative. However, despite Biden’s majority favorable rating just 28% of voters have strongly favorable views of him and just 35% of voters indicate they are definitely voting for him. These voters are in a common area for this stage of the campaign. They are frustrated with the incumbent and have not heard anything particularly bad about the challenger.

Republican Analysis

“Absent a stunning economic turnaround or a vaccine being developed faster than ever in human history, President Trump’s next best path to victory is to recreate the dynamics of his 2016 race against Hillary Clinton,” said Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group. “At this stage, Biden has been able to define this race as a contest between Trump and not Trump. The Trump campaign needs to turn this into a contest between Trump and a partisan Democrat opponent who has been in public life for more than four decades with a record worthy of scrutiny and critical review by voters.

“Trump could also raise his re-election chances by focusing relentlessly on his achievements on issues that matter to voters and where he has or has had a majority approval rating. These are pocketbook issues like jobs, the economy, and taxes. In addition, he could take a less combative tact on dealing with COVID-19 crisis and cede some decision-making authority to health policy experts.”

The full Republican analysis by the Tarrance Group can be found here.

Democratic Analysis

“The data paints a fairly optimistic picture for the Democrats, although there is work to be done in key areas—particularly the economy. President Trump is overwhelmingly unpopular, even among groups he is typically stronger with, including men and seniors. Voters generally think he is doing a poor job as President overall and, on specific issues, solidly disapprove of his performance on coronavirus, race relations, and healthcare,” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. “The economy is what holds him up and voters are split, although they disapprove of his handling of the economic recovery—an important point Democrats need to focus on. When compared to Biden, Trump’s hold on the economy is even weaker with voters placing more confidence in Biden on a variety of economic issues, although it is competitive. Biden is also significantly more trusted on key issues such as healthcare, coronavirus, immigration, foreign affairs, and race relations. As this election comes down to a referendum on leadership, Democrats should think about elevating foreign affairs as a place where Vice President Biden has a significant advantage.”

The full Democratic analysis by Lake Research Partners can be found here.

Civility in Politics

In addition to traditional polling questions related to U.S. electoral politics and voter attitudes, the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll also gauges voter opinion on the state of civility in our national political conversation. The results of this portion of the poll will be announced on Friday, August 14.

To learn more about the poll, see the questionnaire, charts, tables, and analysis visit:

Academics, researchers, and journalists can also access the full dataset to assist in their own research and analyses. [Note: Any use of this data and material must credit the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll.]

The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll is a national bipartisan survey measuring political opinion and civility among registered voters in the United States. Produced by Republican strategist Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic strategist Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, this polling series offers unique polling analysis and insights from two top pollsters from different sides of the aisle.

Initiated in June 1991, and housed at GU Politics since April 2019, the Battleground Polls have gained widespread media recognition as reliable bellwethers of national opinion and voters’ intentions. The Battleground data projected the outcome of the 1992, 1996, and 2004 presidential race more precisely than any other similar effort in the country, including those of the major TV networks and national newspapers. In addition, Battleground Polls have consistently been major predictors of what is going to happen in approaching Congressional elections.

The Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) connects and empowers students and the broader community to improve and reimagine politics and public service and reaffirm its promise. Founded as part of the McCourt School of Public Policy in the fall of 2015, GU Politics programming is open to the entire Georgetown community.

The Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy is a top-ranked public policy school located in Washington, D.C., the heart of the policy world. The McCourt School’s mission is to teach our students to design, analyze, and implement smart policies and put them into practice in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, in the U.S. and around the world.