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Politics, pandemic, and the Divided States: Stress over COVID-19 a major driver of landmark U.S. vote

It was polarization and division that presaged the Trump presidential era. As the Republican candidate attempts to double the length of his stay in the White House, it is once again polarization and division – some of it new, some of it unforeseen – that drives American voters to the final day of voting on November 3.

The last presidential election may have felt like a lifetime ago. But four years later, familiar voting dynamics are at play, along with new ones. In 2020, stress levels over the COVID-19 pandemic are a significant factor in how Americans intend to vote – or already have cast their ballots.

So too is the enthusiasm – or lack thereof – for the two presidential candidates. Trump voters are motivated by a fervent support for their candidate. Joe Biden supporters – by contrast – are divided between excitement for the Democratic nominee and a more basic desire to keep Trump from a second term. Similar vote dynamics among Democrats were at play four years ago when Trump and then-presidential nominee Hillary Clinton battled for the White House.

Heading into the final days of the 2020 campaign, however, it is Biden who holds an eight-point edge in popular vote over the incumbent (53% versus 45% respectively). While Trump battles in swing states for voters more likely to cast a ballot for him on election day, Biden has an advantage among those who have already voted. That said, the ghosts of elections past may be hanging around a little longer than Halloween this year, as uncertainty over mail in ballots, voter suppression, and a possible court-decided outcome may haunt voters in the U.S. and observers around the world.

More Key Findings: 

  • Four-in-five Trump voters (79%) say they are voting for their candidate because they like what he stands for, while one-in-five (21%) are more motivated to block Joe Biden. For Biden voters, the motivation is much more evenly divided, with 55 per cent enthusiastic about him and 45 per cent wanting to stop Trump
  • Three-quarters of those who are very or extremely worried about COVID-19 are voting for Joe Biden. Conversely, among those who are not at all worried about the virus, Trump holds a 76 per cent to 21 per cent advantage.
  • The President leads by 12 points among White voters (55% to 43%). Among Black voters however, he garners just 12 per cent, compared to 86 per cent for Joe Biden. The former VP also garners at least 60 per cent of votes among Latinos and other visible minorities
  • Men are divided evenly between the two candidates, with 48 per cent supporting Biden and 50 per cent supporting Trump. Women, however, offer Biden a 17-point advantage (58% to 41%).


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