UMD Critical Issues Poll Finds Partisans Unswayed by Conventions, but Independents Shift Slightly to Biden

UMD Critical Issues Poll Finds Partisans Unswayed by Conventions, but Independents Shift Slightly to Biden

The recent national political conventions did little to sway the party faithful, but may be the reason behind the surge in support among Independents for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, according to new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll results released today.

They show the former vice president polling ahead of President Donald Trump by 10 points (48% to 38%) among 3,932 respondents, 94% of whom were registered voters. The poll started on Aug. 18, the second day of the Democratic convention, and concluded on Aug. 28, the day after the Republican National Convention wrapped up.

“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 to the last five days, there was an overall shift toward Biden: from 39% for Trump and 48% for Biden, to 37% and 50%, respectively. The most notable change was among independents, who swung from 16% to 14% support for Trump, and from 31% to 39% for Biden between the first and second periods.

Among the poll’s other key findings, Democrats report they 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, 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 to them, while another 25% said it was a vote to support Trump. Meanwhile, 27% say the most important factor in their vote is that they agree with their preferred candidate’s policies, 7% prioritize the Supreme Court, and 2% prioritize party loyalty. There was little change in these priorities from the first period to the second.

A majority of Americans have both a favorable view of Black Lives Matter and support the movement, with BLM support remaining at 56% through both periods of the poll.

Given the pandemic, most Americans (58%) remain opposed to K-12 schools opening this fall, and 71% say face masks should be mandatory to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.

The poll, fielded by Nielsen Scarborough, was launched in 2016 to probe domestic and international issues that are central for our policy discourse. This latest poll included nearly 40 questions focused on issues of race and the pandemic, with related questions that can be found in full on the Critical Issues Poll website.

September 4, 2020

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