The COVID-19 Pandemic: Prospects for the November Elections

NEW YORK, April 24, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Americans are not turning to their president as a source of guidance during the coronavirus pandemic. When asked to whom they personally turn, Americans are most likely to say public health officials, their state governors, or their friends and families, according to a new poll from Fordham University. Perhaps as a result, President Donald Trump trails his presumptive challenger Joe Biden; and substantial proportions of swing voters say they are less likely to support Trump as a result of his handling of the viral outbreak.

The poll, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, took place from April 16 through 20, 2020, among 1,003 respondents nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of 4.33 percentage points. The poll is a product of the Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Certificate in Public Opinion and Survey Research.

Guidance during troubled times

Forty-five percent of Americans say that public health officials are very important in providing them personal guidance during the pandemic, and another 41% say these officials have been somewhat important. A total of 74% say that their state governor has been an important source of guidance to them.

Only 43% of Americans say President Trump is a very or somewhat important source of guidance at this time. Professor Monika McDermott, director of the poll, points out: “Trump is not providing guidance to Americans right now. But it’s not that people aren’t looking for political leadership, it’s just that they’re getting it from their state leaders instead of from their president.”

Who would handle the crisis better?

Perhaps as a result, Americans feel that someone other than Trump might do a better job handling the crisis. A 42% plurality of Americans feel that Biden would do a better job handling the crisis as president, while 30% think he would do a worse job, and 26% say he would do about the same job as Trump. New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo performs similarly, in a hypothetical situation – 42% think Cuomo would do a better job as president than Trump is doing handling the crisis, while 24% think he would do worse, and 30% say he would do about the same.

Coronavirus and the Vote

While President Donald Trump has shown amazing resilience within his core base of support throughout his presidency, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic could be hurting him among groups of swing voters who are equally as important to a 2020 victory. Some of the groups Trump won in 2016 appear to be souring on him as a result of his handling of the crisis. While pluralities of many groups say his handling of the crisis will not affect their vote come November, roughly a third of seniors, Midwesterners, and independents report that it is making them less likely to support him.

Has Trump’s handling of the coronavirus so far made you…?

 60+MidwestIndependentWhiteHigh school or less
More likely to support29%18%22%28%27%
Less likely to support35 33 32 30 23 
No difference in support35 48 45 42 48 

Perhaps even more damaging to the president, 30% of white voters and 23% of those with only a high school diploma or less are less likely to vote for him as a result of how he has handled the crisis – groups on which he was able to rely heavily in 2016. Overall, however, a 41% plurality of voters say their votes are unaffected by the crisis, Trump’s first real crisis of this magnitude.

At this point in the election year former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden holds a 14-point lead over Trump with 56% to 42% among registered voters. Biden’s commanding lead comes not only from the aforementioned independents, but also from much stronger support from his Democratic base than Trump’s corresponding Republican support. While Biden enjoys 93% support among Democrats, Trump receives only 84% of the vote from Republicans. Independents split for Biden 52% to 44%.

Options for holding the November vote

Americans are open to changing the format of the election, in light of the coronavirus outbreak. When asked how we should deal with the election if the coronavirus outbreak is still a threat in November, a 53% majority of Americans say we should move to all-mail balloting rather than proceeding as normal. One-quarter of Americans would prefer to proceed as normal, and 18% would prefer to postpone the election. Partisan messaging may already be sinking in on this question, as 69% of Democrats support moving to an all-mail system, compared to only 31% of Republicans.

[Question 1 held for future release]

[Asked of registered voters]
2. If the November 2020 election were being held today, would you vote for Democrat Joe Biden or for Republican Donald Trump?

Democrat Joe Biden56%93%52%14%     
Republican Donald Trump42%6%44%84%     
Don’t know/No answer3%2%4%2%     

[Questions 2 through 14 held for separate release]

[Asked of all]
15. If the coronavirus outbreak persists through November, would you support postponing the election, moving to all-mail balloting, or proceeding as normal?

Postpone the election18%14%18%23%     
Moving to all mail53%69%54%31%     
Proceed as normal26%12%26%45%     
Don’t know/No answer3%5%3%1%     

16. Will President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus so far make you more likely to support him for reelection this year, less likely to support him, or will it have no effect on your vote?

More likely to support23%6%22%47%     
Less likely to support33%52%32%13%     
No effect41%38%45%41%     
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%0%     

17. Do you believe, as president, Joe Biden would do a better job, a worse job, or about the same job of handling the coronavirus crisis as Donald Trump?

Better job42%78%34%9%     
Worse job30%4%28%64%     
About the same26%14%36%25%     
Don’t know/No answer3%5%2%2%     

18. Do you believe, as president, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo would do a better job, a worse job, or about the same job of handling the coronavirus crisis as Donald Trump?

Better job42%68%39%16%     
Worse job24%6%23%49%     
About the same30%19%36%34%     
Don’t know/No answer4%7%2%2%     

19. How important have each of the following been to you personally in providing guidance during the coronavirus crisis?

[Order of items randomized]
      a.   Your state governor 

Very important34%48%28%27% 
Somewhat important40%31%44%45% 
Not very important16%10%21%14% 
Not at all important8%7%6%13% 
Don’t know/No answer2%4%1%1%  
  1. President Trump
Very important19%9%16%36% 
Somewhat important25%12%26%37% 
Not very important19%17%23%15% 
Not at all important36%57%33%13% 
Don’t know/No answer2%5%1%0%  

      c.   Friends and family

Very important31%34%30%30% 
Somewhat important39%40%37%43% 
Not very important22%18%25%22% 
Not at all important6%4%7%6% 
Don’t know/No answer2%4%1%0%  
  1. Religious leaders
Very important16%18%14%16% 
Somewhat important24%22%23%30% 
Not very important24%22%21%30% 
Not at all important34%34%40%24% 
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%1%  
  1. Public health officials
Very important45%59%38%37% 
Somewhat important41%30%48%45% 
Not very important8%5%9%11% 
Not at all important4%3%3%7% 
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%0%  

The nationwide poll was part of an omnibus survey conducted April 16-20, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,003 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.33 percentage points.

Professor Monika McDermott
(917)747-1987 (cell)

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

Guidance during troubled times