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 3,003 registered voters conducted October 30-November 3, 2020. The vote shares for Joe Biden and Donald Trump among self-reported 2020 voters were also adjusted to reflect a preliminary estimate of the national popular vote in the 2020 presidential election.
- A majority of voters approved of President Trump’s handling of the economy – long considered the most important issue in presidential campaigns. This analysis explores some reasons why, despite this advantage, the president lost his bid for re-election anyway.
- Specifically, we look closely at “Conflicted” Biden voters. This relatively small group of voters (6% of the sample) approved of the job Trump did in handling the economy as president, but ultimately voted for Biden in 2020.
- As the analysis shows, this was a politically moderate group who liked some aspects of how the president approached the economy but never bought into Trump or Trumpism. Most importantly, they felt he did too little to control the coronavirus pandemic, they rejected his divisive approach, and they were repelled by his personal behavior – especially his self-absorption and dishonesty.
What We Did
The analysis is based on interviews with 3,003 registered voters who had already voted or planned to vote in the November election, with interviews conducted October 30th to November 3rd, 2020.
Support for Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the presidential election has been adjusted to reflect the actual expected popular vote as of November 16th. The analysis aims to provide a new tool for Americans to understand what happened in the 2020 election, why it happened… and what’s next.
Trump Lost the Election Despite Net Positive Approval on the Economy
While the vast majority of Biden voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the economy, his job overall, health care, and coronavirus, the issue on which he had the highest ratings among Biden voters was the economy (11% approve).
“Conflicted” Biden Voters Were Mostly Democratic-Leaning But Relatively Moderate
Among the 11% of Biden voters who gave Donald Trump positive marks on his handling of the economy, two in three identify (67%) as Democrats and nearly half (49%) identify as moderate.
- Demographically, these voters are similar to the average Biden voter, at 67% white and 36% college educated, but 54% are men (compared to 43% for Biden voters overall).
Nearly Half of “Conflicted” Biden Voters Gave Trump Credit for the Pre-Pandemic Economy
More “Conflicted” Biden voters than Biden voters overall said the economy was working before the pandemic.
The Vast Majority of “Conflicted” Biden Voters Prioritized the Pandemic Over the Economy
Three in four (74%) “Conflicted” Biden voters said the pandemic was more important to their vote than the economy.
Nearly Nine in Ten “Conflicted” Biden Voters Felt Trump Did Not Do Enough to Respond to the Pandemic
While seven in ten Trump voters feel Trump and his administration got their response to coronavirus “about right,” more than nine in ten Biden voters and nearly the same share of “Conflicted” voters say they “didn’t do enough.”
Some “Conflicted” Biden Voters Said The Economy Pulled Them Towards Trump, But All Other Issues Pushed the Other Way
As many “Conflicted” Biden voters said the economy was a reason to vote for Biden as it was for Trump (42%).
On Top of Leadership Failures, “Conflicted” Voters Were Put Off By Trump Himself – Especially His Self-Absorption
Top reasons “Conflicted” Biden voters gave to vote against Trump include his failed pandemic response, attempts to divide Americans, and constant tweeting, while three in five say “self-absorbed” best describes what bothered them.
“Conflicted” Voters Overwhelmingly Said the Country Is Worse Off Than It Was Before Trump Came Into Office
Despite more positivity toward Trump’s economic handling, “Conflicted” Biden voters were almost as pessimistic about the state of the country compared to five years ago (78% worse) as Biden voters overall (88% worse).