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Trump’s Law And Order Message Isn’t Resonating With Most Americans

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

As President Trump continues to push a “law and order” campaign message, we’ve been keeping an eye on the polls to see whether there’s any truth to the narrative that the recent unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will help Trump politically. So far, the answer is no. Polls conducted this week and late last week suggest that public attitudes aren’t really breaking in Trump’s direction, even though the Republican National Convention focused a great deal on characterizing the Democrats as the party of chaos and anarchy.

It’s true that Americans are less inclined to view as peaceful those protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha compared with those who were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May. This week’s survey from The Economist/YouGov found that 41 percent of Americans considered the protesters themselves “mostly peaceful,” while 40 percent said they were “mostly violent.” This marked a sizable departure from early July, when the pollster last asked this question — back then, 54 percent viewed the protesters as more peaceful, while only 31 percent viewed them as more violent. And late last week, a Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — thought the protests had gone too far, compared with 31 percent who said that they hadn’t.

The most recent protests in Kenosha and elsewhere also don’t have quite the same level of support as the protests that followed Floyd’s death. According to a new survey from Politico/Morning Consult, 49 percent of registered voters supported the latest protests, while 32 percent opposed them. Back in early June, 57 percent of registered voters backed the Floyd protests, while just 23 percent opposed them. However, the new Politico/Morning Consult survey still found a plurality backing the ongoing protests connected to Kenosha, and other polling echoes this finding: A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that 57 percent felt peaceful demonstrations should continue despite the violence that has cropped up in some cities, whereas 36 percent felt the protests should cease because of the violence that has sometimes followed.

Given the underlying support for these protests, a major challenge remains for the president: Many Americans doubt his ability to fix the problems and reduce tensions that have precipitated the demonstrations. According to a YouGov survey on Wednesday, 56 percent of adults said that the violence happening at protests would get worse if Trump were reelected this November. Fifteen percent thought the violence would stay at similar levels, while 18 percent thought it would improve (11 percent said they didn’t know). Conversely, 43 percent thought protest violence would get better if Joe Biden won, and just 23 percent thought it would worsen. Somewhat similarly, 50 percent of likely voters told Quinnipiac University this week that they felt less safe with Trump as president, compared with 35 percent who said they felt safer. These voters were more split on Biden, however: 42 percent said they’d feel safer with Biden in the White House, and 40 percent said they’d feel less safe. Regarding Trump’s and Biden’s rhetoric on the protests, ABC News/Ipsos survey found that 55 percent of Americans thought Trump’s statements made things worse, while about half the country (49 percent) thought Biden’s statements didn’t have much effect either way.

Furthermore, other polling continued to show that voters preferred Biden’s prospective handling of race relations, public safety and unifying the country. In this week’s Quinnipiac poll, 58 percent of likely voters said Biden would handle the issue of racial inequality better, compared with 36 percent who said Trump would fare better. A new CNN/SSRS poll found a similar breakdown — 56 percent of registered voters said Biden, and 38 percent said Trump. According to Morning Consult’s new survey, 51 percent said Biden would do a better job handling race relations versus 32 percent who said Trump; 47 percent said that Biden would better handle public safety versus 39 percent who said Trump would. According to the ABC News/Ipsos poll, 56 percent and 55 percent of Americans thought Biden would do a better job keeping their families and the country safe, respectively, compared with 42 percent for Trump on both questions. Even on an issue that might fold in better with Trump’s law-and-order messaging, 51 percent of registered voters told CNN/SSRS that Biden would do a better job dealing with the criminal justice system, compared with 44 percent who said Trump would. CNN/SSRS also found that 56 percent thought Biden stood a better chance of unifying the country and not dividing it, while just 36 percent thought Trump stood a better chance. ABC News/Ipsos found an even larger split: 64 percent of Americans said Biden would do more to unite the country than divide it, while only 33 percent said the same of Trump.

We can’t know what other events will unfold between now and November, but we can say that the violence in the wake of Blake’s shooting has seemed to affect public sentiment. That effect isn’t huge, however, and the public hasn’t used that violence to impugn the protests against police violence and systemic racism as a whole. Moreover, more Americans support Biden’s approach to these issues than Trump’s.

Other bites

  • A new HuffPost/YouGov survey suggests that Trump now dominates the Republican Party he leads. Among Republicans1 who voted for Trump in 2016, 49 percent considered themselves more Trump backers than GOP backers, while 19 percent said they were more supporters of the GOP than they were supporters of Trump. Another 28 percent said they were supporters of both. And if there were a conflict between Trump and congressional Republicans, 61 percent said they’d be more likely to support Trump, compared with just 13 percent who would be predisposed to back Republicans on Capitol Hill instead.
  • Although votes this November will be counted more slowly than usual because of increased mail-in or absentee voting, a poll from Axios/Ipsos found that a plurality of Americans — 36 percent — expected the 2020 presidential winner to be announced on Election Night. Another 24 percent believed the winner would be called one to two days after the election, 14 percent a week after, 13 percent a few weeks later and 12 percent at least a month or more after. However, the findings didn’t show sizable differences in expectations between Democrats and Republicans.
  • Based on its polling so far this year, NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that voters who cast ballots for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein in 2016 were more likely to back Biden than Trump this November. Of these voters, 47 percent said they planned to support Biden, 20 percent said Trump and 33 percent were undecided or planned to vote for another candidate.
  • According to polling from Franklin Templeton/Gallup, Americans overwhelmingly support another economic-support payment similar to those sent as part of the CARES Act earlier this year. Seventy percent said the federal government should send another one-time payment to all qualified adults, while only 17 percent disagreed (13 percent didn’t know). Despite partisan wrangling in Congress over the issue, there was largely bipartisan agreement in the poll: 82 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans backed the one-time payment initiative.
  • A new survey from Morning Consult found that 28 percent of Americans felt the Food and Drug Administration based its decisions concerning potential COVID-19 treatments and vaccines on political pressure, while 49 percent thought its choices were based on science (23 percent didn’t know or had no opinion). And half of respondents thought that Trump influenced FDA decisions “a lot” or “somewhat.” The agency has drawn criticism from health experts for misrepresenting the effectiveness of some COVID-19 treatments and for suggesting that some clinical trials could be skipped to fast-track a vaccine.
  • An Ipsos survey of almost 20,000 adults in 27 countries on behalf of the World Economic Forum found that 74 percent would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available. However, 59 percent did not expect to have access to a vaccine before the end of the year. Among U.S. respondents, 67 percent said they would get a vaccine if it were available, and 66 percent didn’t expect to have access to a vaccine by the end of 2020.
  • While Trump has tried to showcase a strong military as part of his political appeal, a new poll from the Military Times/Syracuse University found that his support was flagging among active-duty service members. Half of those polled had an unfavorable view of the president, while 38 percent viewed him favorably, a reversal from his standing in 2016, when he was a candidate for president. And in the election this year, 41 percent said they would support Biden, compared with 37 percent who backed Trump.
  • YouGov asked Americans about domestic terrorism by right-wing or left-wing extremists and found that 62 percent were very or somewhat concerned about right-wing extremists, while 54 percent said the same of the left wing. Unsurprisingly, 79 percent of Democrats had concerns about right-wing violence, and 84 percent of Republicans worried about violent left-wing activity. By 6 percentage points, independents were more worried about right-wing (59 percent) than left-wing (53 percent) extremists.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 43.4 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -8.9 points). At this time last week, 42.2 percent approved and 54.3 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -12.1 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 54.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -13.6 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.4 percentage points (48.7 percent to 41.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.3 points (48.3 percent to 41.0 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.8 points (48.3 percent to 40.5 percent).

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s full presidential forecast; you can also see all the 2020 polls we’ve collected, including national polls, Florida polls, Michigan polls, Minnesota polls, North Carolina polls, Texas polls and … well … all the states, really.

UPDATE (September 4, 2020, 9:52 a.m.): This article was updated to include an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday.


  1. Including independents who lean toward the GOP.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.