Looking into the polls for answers about 2020

There are all sorts of polls coming out right now about the race for the White House, and while they give us a snapshot of the Presidential race, some of the other questions asked as part of those same surveys also give us some interesting insight on what voters are thinking as Election Day approaches.


In the ‘crosstabs’ of most polls, you can find out a lot more information than just whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump is leading the race for President.


And 2020 is already sending us a lot of messages - with the usual caveat - the polls aren’t always right.


Here are seven things that caught my eye from recent polls.


1. President Trump’s message on ‘law and order.’ With riots in a series of American cities this summer, President Trump has pressed hard to make the argument that a victory for Joe Biden will mean more violence. “He never even mentioned the words ‘law and order’ in his speech or at the convention,” the President said of Biden during a campaign rally on Sunday in Nevada. But is the ‘law and order’ message working? The polls don’t seem to show it has helped the President. At least not yet.

2. Trump voters are done with the Coronavirus. Whether it’s indoor or outdoor campaign rallies, or large crowds supporting the President at the White House, many Republicans are sending a clear message that they have had enough with masks and Coronavirus restrictions. And so has the President. “Tell your Governor to open up your state,” Mr. Trump said to a thunderous cheer in Nevada on Sunday, as he complained in recent days about virus restrictions getting in the way of his campaign rallies. Recent polling shows the President’s backers are on board with that type of comment.

3. Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. In 2016, Donald Trump definitely benefited from having Hillary Clinton as his opponent. The interviews I did with voters that year were filled with people who clearly did not want to vote for Clinton. Now in 2020, polling consistently shows that voters do not see Joe Biden in the same way they saw Clinton. Biden’s numbers remain positive in terms of approval/disapproval in many polls. That is probably not a good sign for President Trump, especially since he has not been able to drive up Biden’s negatives - outside of his base supporters.

4. Suburban voters are not flocking to Trump. President Trump has spent a lot of time in recent months arguing that Joe Biden and Democrats will ‘destroy’ the suburbs. But his warnings don’t seem to be working in the suburbs, which were already trending against Republicans in 2018. A series of polls in recent months have shown suburban voters - especially women - are more than ready to vote against the President. If Democrats can maximize turnout in the suburbs of swing states like Pennsylvania, that could give them a boost in November.

5. Polls show questions for Biden with Hispanic voters. One of the most surprising findings of a number of recent polls has been weakness among Hispanic voters for Democrats and Joe Biden. That would not have been something many might have predicted. A early September poll for the Miami Herald showed the President is doing better in Miami-Dade County in Florida, and limiting his losses, by drawing more support among Hispanics - essentially tied with Biden, with much of that coming from Cuban-American voters. Watch the focus on Puerto Rican voters in Florida in coming weeks.

6. Biden doing better than Trump with seniors. While the Hispanic poll numbers have been a surprise against Biden, polls in a number of states have shown the President struggling with older voters. That’s definitely a different situation than in 2016, when seniors voted for President Trump by a comfortable margin over Hillary Clinton. What would be the reason for the change? One thing could be the Coronavirus. Why is this a big deal? Democrats have not won seniors since Al Gore narrowly edged George W. Bush in voters over 65 years of age, back in 2000.

7. There are not that many undecided voters. Not only is support for third parties down in 2020, but the polls also show a much smaller group of undecided voters. If those numbers are true, then there is much less of a chance of a late swing as well - barring some kind of momentous change in the race. In other words, if one candidate is mired at the 42-43-44 percent level, and there are only five percent undecided, then it’s very difficult to lash together a late charge down the home stretch. Most minds are made up already. You’ve probably noticed that in talking to your friends.

8. Voting early versus going to the polls on Election Day. With President Trump attacking mail-in voting, it is no surprise that his supporters are turning more toward voting on November 3. But the numbers in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota and Wisconsin are mind boggling. On one hand, it shows Trump voters prefer voting in person. But the edge for Democrats is gigantic in terms of absentee voting and early in-person voting.


Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau

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