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Trump Wants To Postpone The Election, But Americans Really Don’t

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Last week, President Trump sparked a firestorm by calling for the postponement of the November election as the country prepares to vote amid the coronavirus pandemic. And although the president cannot actually delay the vote — Congress determines the federal election date — this hasn’t stopped Trump from repeatedly casting doubt on the election results and exacerbating Americans’ already-flagging confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

But so far, Trump’s idea of postponing the election isn’t very popular. Three new polls this week found that Americans strongly oppose postponing the election, even in the face of a public health crisis. Reuters/Ipsos found that 66 percent of registered voters opposed a delay, while just 23 percent supported it (11 percent weren’t sure). The Economist/YouGov found that 66 percent of adults opposed postponement, compared to just 15 percent who backed it (19 percent weren’t sure). Politico/Morning Consult also asked voters how they felt about delaying the election, giving them three choices: Postpone the election, hold the election as scheduled but with mostly in-person voting, or hold the election as scheduled but with most Americans voting by mail. It also found that most opposed postponing: Just 7 percent backed delaying the election, down from 16 percent in April when the pollster last asked about this, while 86 percent of respondents said the election should stay on schedule, one way or another.

However, as with most issues in American politics, there were notable partisan splits, although the polls disagreed as to just how far apart Democrats and Republicans were on the issue. In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, for instance, 79 percent of Democrats opposed a delay compared to only 51 percent of Republicans. Whereas in that Economist/YouGov poll, the gap was smaller: Seventy-seven percent of Democrats opposed a delay, versus 59 percent of Republicans. Politico/Morning Consult found an even smaller partisan divide, with 93 percent of Democrats saying the election should be held as scheduled, compared to 82 percent of Republicans. It’s worth noting that the Politico/Morning Consult survey offered respondents three options, which might have affected the partisan breakdown to some extent, as some Republicans might prefer postponement to a largely vote-by-mail election.

Americans were also split on Trump’s motivation for suggesting a delay to the election. Among Republicans in that Reuters/Ipsos poll, 41 percent said Trump’s tweet was driven by a fear of voter fraud, and 21 percent said Trump wanted to protect Americans from getting the coronavirus at polling places. Only 17 percent of Republicans said he was trying to either distract the country from the pandemic or give himself a better shot at victory (another 16 percent weren’t sure of his motivations). Conversely, a whopping 63 percent of Democrats said Trump wanted a delay to the election to improve his chances of winning, while another 19 percent thought he wanted to distract the country. Just 10 percent of Democrats thought Trump’s main motivation was either a fear of voter fraud or a desire to protect Americans from contracting the virus.

Politico/Morning Consult’s question on postponing the election also offered some insight into how respondents want Americans to cast their ballots. The share who desired a predominantly vote-by-mail election hadn’t really changed since April, but the share who preferred mostly in-person balloting shot up to 34 percent from just 19 percent in the spring — a shift largely driven by Republicans and independents. Fifty-five percent of Republicans said they wanted most voters to physically go to the polls, up from 32 percent in April, as did 30 percent of independents, a share that had doubled from 15 percent in April. However, only slightly more Democrats wanted mostly in-person voting than they did in the spring (18 percent versus 10 percent). As for mail-in voting, there was one notable development: Fewer Republicans supported it. The share of Republicans who said they wanted an on-schedule, mostly vote-by-mail election slid from 38 percent in April to 27 percent in August.

And that shift in Republican attitudes in the Politico/Morning Consult survey reveals how Trump’s call to postpone the election could gain traction if he keeps trumpeting it. After all, the president has repeatedly denounced voting by mail, and correspondingly, we’ve seen the share of Republicans who want a mostly vote-by-mail election decrease.

For now, though, the thought of postponing the election is very unpopular. And it probably doesn’t help the president that most Republican elites view the idea as a non-starter. But if the president keeps pushing the issue, don’t count out more Republican voters supporting a delay.

Other polling bites

  • The coronavirus threat has influenced attitudes toward schools reopening, and a poll from Gallup conducted in mid-to-late July found that a majority of parents of K-12 schoolchildren wanted some form of distance learning for their children. Thirty-six percent preferred a mixed approach involving some in-person and remote learning, while 28 percent wanted full-time remote learning. Just 36 percent wanted full-time in-person schooling this fall. These views represented a major shift from late May and early June, when Gallup found that a majority of parents preferred full-time in-person schooling for their children in the fall.
  • Teachers are struggling with how they feel about in-person and distance learning, too. An NPR/Ipsos poll conducted in late July found that 66 percent of K-12 teachers preferred fall classes to be remote, while 34 percent preferred a return to in-person learning. Eighty-two percent of teachers said they’re concerned about returning to in-person teaching, but 84 percent also said they’re worried that distance learning will cause some students to fall behind. And only 37 percent said their school district has provided them with enough training to teach in the fall while the pandemic is going on.
  • A new survey from NBC News/SurveyMonkey found that Americans trusted Trump significantly less on the coronavirus than they trusted their state’s governor, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fifty-eight percent said they don’t trust what the president has said about the pandemic, while just 31 percent said they do. Unsurprisingly, 93 percent of Democrats said they didn’t trust what Trump had said about the coronavirus, as did 66 percent of independents. Meanwhile, 69 percent of Republicans said they trusted what Trump had to say on the coronavirus, and 22 percent said they didn’t.
  • Gallup recently found that public approval of the U.S. Supreme Court is at its highest level since 2009. Overall, 58 percent of Americans approve of the court’s job performance, similar to the 61 percent approval it enjoyed 11 years ago. Attitudes toward the court also differ little by party, as 60 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats approved of its performance. This is a stark departure from the partisan differences in public approval of the court roughly a year ago.
  • Sports leagues have had mixed success restarting play in the age of the coronavirus, and a new survey from Morning Consult found that most fans of football — both professional and college — don’t think the sport should return as scheduled. Only 32 percent of NFL fans thought the season should be played as planned, 33 percent said it should be postponed, and 18 percent said it should be canceled (17 percent weren’t sure). College football fans were even more pessimistic: Just 30 percent thought the season should go ahead as planned, 34 percent said it should be postponed, and 24 percent preferred cancellation.
  • The social media platform TikTok could be banned by the U.S. government, so YouGov polled Americans about how they viewed a potential ban. The survey found that 35 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported a ban, while 33 percent either “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed one. Another 15 percent said they didn’t know, and 17 percent said they were unfamiliar with TikTok. Adults under the age of 25 — the app’s most active users — were most likely to oppose a ban: Forty-four percent opposed a ban, while 34 percent supported one.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.7 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -13.5 points). At this time last week, 40.6 percent approved and 55.1 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -14.5 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 55.9 percent, for a net approval rating of -15.2 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.8 percentage points (48.2 percent to 40.5 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 8.3 points (49.1 percent to 40.8 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 8.8 points (49.2 percent to 40.4 percent).

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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