Public Opinion on Coronavirus and The Vote: Navigator Update

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,011 registered voters conducted October 3-5, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • A majority continue to believe the “worst is yet to come” with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Americans increasingly expect we may not have presidential election results on Election Day or the day after.
  • The public feels 2020 is the most important election in their lifetime, with top concerns about it including post-election violence, Trump not accepting the results if he loses, and Trump trying to get mail ballots invalidated.

As Rates of New Cases Continue to Rise Around Country and in the White House, Majority Say the “Worst is Yet to Come”

More than half of Americans say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic, while still only three in ten say the “worst is over.”

  • Republicans are driving the share who say the “worst is over” at 54%, while 73% of Democrats and 52% of independents say the “worst is yet to come.”

Americans Remain More Concerned Social Distancing Will End Too Soon Rather Than Go on Too Long

The majority of Americans remain more concerned that social distancing will end too soon.

  • Among independents, 47% are more concerned social distancing will end too soon, while 34% are more concerned social distancing will go on too long.

Worries About National Health Still Outweigh Economic Concerns For Three in Five Americans

The majority say they are more concerned about the impact of coronavirus on people’s health while only two in five say they are more concerned about the impact of coronavirus on the economy.

  • On separate questions, 55% of Americans know someone who has been infected with coronavirus, including 7% who say they personally have been infected, and 25% now say they know someone who has died.

4% Report Having Already Voted and More Than a Third Each Say They Will Vote By Mail or In Person on Election Day

Nearly two in five plan to vote by mail and almost the same share plan to vote in person on Election Day, while one in five plan to vote in person before Election Day.

  • Since last week, intent to vote by mail has remained steady, while intent to vote in person on Election Day has dropped 4% (from 39% to 35%). Among Democrats, 6% report already having voted.

Majority Plan to Vote Before Election Day – With a Third Voting in the Next Two Weeks

Roughly the same share plan to vote in the next two weeks as plan to vote on Election Day, with one in five planning to vote between October 20th and November 3rd.

  • Republicans remain most likely to vote on Election Day (52%) while Democrats are most likely to vote in the next two weeks (39%).

Growing Share Say It Will Take Longer Than a Day to Know Presidential Election Results

Now nearly seven in ten say it will take longer than a day to know who won the election, up 8 points since last week and 16 points since just three weeks ago.

  • In a follow-up, 48% say we will know within a couple days, as compared to 58% who said this on September 21: the share who say it may take a few weeks or longer is up 9 points since then (from 13% to 22%).

Democrats Grow More Confident in a Biden Victory

While more than nine in ten supporters of Trump and Biden believe their respective candidate will win the November election, Trump voters feel Trump will “definitely” win (60%) more than Biden voters think Biden will “definitely” win (39%). Among independents, a greater share say Trump will “definitely win” (23%) than say so for Biden (8%).

More Biden Voters Strongly Agree 2020 Is “Most Important Election”

Nearly nine in ten Americans agree that the 2020 presidential election is the most important in their lifetime.

  • Two in three Biden voters (66%) and three in five (60%) of Republicans strongly agree with the statement, while only 29% of independents strongly agree.

Majority Remain Confident Votes Will Be Counted Fairly

While more than two in three say they are confident the results of the election will be counted correctly and fairly and three in four say the same of their own ballot, confidence in each has declined in recent weeks.

  • Confidence in overall results being counted fairly has declined 7 points since last week as has confidence in personal ballots.

Top Concerns About November Election: Post-Election Violence, Trump Denying Results If He Loses

While Trump not accepting election results if he loses is one of the top concerns for Americans (including even 36% of Republicans), the least concerning item among a series of concerns is Biden not accepting results if he loses.

Concerns About Voter Suppression Consistently Outweigh Concerns About Fraud

Nearly half of Americans continue to say they are more concerned about voter suppression than voter fraud, while two in five are more concerned about voter fraud.

  • Among those who are voting by mail, 56% are more concerned about voter suppression; among those voting in-person on Election Day, 51% are more concerned about voter fraud.

Civic Engagement on the Rise Since June 2018, Especially On Talking With Friends, Donating, and Posting About Politics

Since June 2018, the share who say they have taken some kind of political action since Trump got elected has grown 9 points. Nearly two in three say they have talked about politics with friends and family members.

Majorities Seeing a Mix of Positive and Negative Advertisements About Presidential Candidates

More than half are seeing a mix of positive and negative advertisements about each candidate. While only one in six report seeing just positive advertisements about Trump, nearly three in ten are seeing just positive ads on Biden.

  • Among Democrats, only 5% report seeing just positive ads on Trump, while 20% of Republicans report seeing just positive ads on Biden.