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The Fordham Poll - The Coronavirus, the Election, and Daily Life

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Professor Monika McDermott
917-747-1987 (cell)
mmcdermott@fordham.edu

The COVID-19 Pandemic
Prospects for the November Elections, and Americans’ Habits

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.

How important has each been in providing guidance
Audience Very Somewhat Not Very Not at all DK/NA
Public Health Officials 44.7% 41% 8.1% 4% 2.1%
State Governor 34.2% 40% 15.5% 8.3% 2%
Friends and Family 31.2% 39.2% 21.7% 5.9% 2%
President Trump 18.8% 24.6% 18.9% 35.5% 2.2%
Religious Leaders 16.1% 24.1% 23.5% 33.8% 2.4%

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…?
Audience 60+ Midwest Independent White High school 
or less
More likely to support him 29% 18% 22% 28% 27%
Less likely to support him 35% 33% 32% 30% 23%
No difference in  support 35% 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.

Day-to-day life during the pandemic

Stay-at-home orders appear to be influencing the behavior of Americans in states and localities where they have been instituted. While most Americans are going out for essential supplies, and outdoor exercise is popular, far fewer individuals are visiting friends and family, or going to a workplace.

Percentage who have gone out to do the following since stay-at-home order was put in place (among those who say they are under stay-at-home orders)
Gone out to get groceries or essential supplies 91%
Gone out to exercise 66%
Gone out to go to work 31%
Gone out to visit friends and family 26%
Gone to restaurant to get take-out 55%

Just over half of all Americans in stay-at-home states have been out to pick up a take-out order since those statewide limits were issued. And these numbers are highest among those with the highest incomes: nearly two-thirds (64%) of those making over $100,000 a year have gone out for take-out, compared to only 40% of those making less than $30,000. According to Professor Monika McDermott, the poll’s director “Overall Americans are allowing themselves to go outside in order to get restaurant food, although it appears to be more of a luxury than a necessity, as those with the most means are most likely to be doing it.”

Age is a large determinant of whether Americans are willing to risk going out for non-essentials. A full 36% of those ages 18 through 34 years report having defied stay-at-home rules to go out and spend time with friends or family, compared to only 21% of those 65 years old or older.

When it comes to how often Americans are going out into spaces where they could come within six feet of others, most are doing so infrequently. Only 11% of Americans are putting themselves in such situations daily, 20% are doing so a few days a week, and 35% are going out only once a week. The remaining 34% are going out less than once a week.

[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?

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Democrat Joe Biden 56% 93% 52% 14%
Republican Donald Trump 42% 6% 44% 84%
Don't know/No answer 3% 2% 4% 2%

[Questions 2 through 11 held for future release]

[Asked of all]

Now we would like to ask you some questions about the novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID 19.

12. As far as you know, has the Governor of your state imposed a stay at home, or shelter in place order asking people not to go out except in case of necessity?

Reply Total
Yes 89%
No 9%
Don't know/No answer 1%

[Asked of those aware of state orders]

13. Since that order was issued, have you done any of the following?

[Order of items randomized]

  1. Gone to the store for groceries or other necessary supplies
Reply Total
Yes 91%
No 9%
Don't know/No answer 0%
  1. Gone outside to exercise
Reply Total
Yes 66%
No 34%
Don't know/No answer 0%

c. Gone out to visit friends or family

Reply Total
Yes 26%
No 73%
Don't know/No answer 1%
  1. Gone to work
Reply Total
Yes 31%
No 68%
Don't know/No answer 1%
  1. Gone to a restaurant to pick up take-out
Reply Total
Yes 55%
No 44%
  1%

14. On average, how often would you say you have been going out to a place in which you may be within six feet of other people since the stay at home order was issued? Every day, a few days a week, once a week, twice a month, less than twice a month, or have you never put yourself in such a situation?

  Total
Every day 11%
A few days a week 20%
Once a week 35%
Twice a month 13%
Less than twice a month 11%
Never 10%
Don't know/No answer 1%

[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?

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Postpone the election 18% 14% 18% 23%
Moving to all mail 53% 69% 54% 31%
Proceed as normal 26% 12% 26% 45%
Don't know/No answer 3% 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?

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Most likely to support 23% 6% 22% 47%
Less likely to support 33% 52% 32% 13%
No effect 41% 38% 45% 41%
Don't know/No answer 2% 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?

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Better job 42% 78% 34% 9%
Worse job 30% 4% 28% 64%
About the same 26% 14% 36% 25%
Don't know/No answer 3% 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?

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Better job 42% 68% 39% 16%
Worse job 24% 6% 23% 49%
About the same 30% 19% 36% 34%
Don't know/No answer 4% 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

Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Very important 34% 48% 28% 27%
Somewhat important 40% 31% 44% 45%
Not very important 16% 10% 21% 14%
Not at all important 8% 7% 6% 13%
Don't know/no answer 2% 4% 1% 1%
  1. President Trump
Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Very important 19% 9% 16% 36%
Somewhat important 25% 12% 26% 37%
Not very important 19% 17% 23% 15%
Not at all important 36% 57% 33% 13%
Don't know/No answer 2% 5% 1% 0%
  1. Friends and family
Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Very important 31% 34% 30% 30%
Somewhat important 39% 40% 37% 43%
Not very important 22% 18% 25% 22%
Not at all important 6% 4% 7% 6%
Don't know/No answer 2% 4% 1% 0%
  1. Religious leaders
Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Very important 16% 18% 14% 16%
Somewhat important 24% 22% 23% 30%
Not very important 24% 22% 21% 30%
Not at all important 34% 34% 40% 24%
Don't know/No answer 2% 4% 2% 1%
  1. Public health officials
Party
  Total Democrat Ind/Other Republican
Very important 45% 59% 38% 37%
Somewhat important 41% 30% 48% 45%
Not very important 8% 5% 9% 11%
Not at all important 4% 3% 3% 7%
Don't know/No answer 2% 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.