State Policy Network
15 things to know about Americans’ pre-election opinions
As communities head into Election Day and the weeks following, here's what Americans are thinking about the general election, coronavirus, and their impacts on the country.

Election week has arrived, and while every election carries significance, the stakes in 2020 feel especially high for many Americans. There is more involved than choosing candidates; for most Americans, voting decisions are laden with economic, healthcare, and societal concerns. The latest polling from Heart+Mind Strategies, conducted October 28-29, shows Biden at 50% and Trump at 39%, with three percent undecided. That margin narrows when Americans are asked who they expect will win: 45% expect a Biden victory, and 38% expect Trump.

As communities head into Election Day and the weeks following, here are 15 things to know about Americans’ reactions to the general election, coronavirus, and the related impact on Americans’ attitudes and values.

General Election

1. What has Americans tuned in?

Coronavirus (84%) and the 2020 presidential election (79%) are the top stories Americans are tracking in the news at least every few days. The third most popular news topic is protests; 68% of Americans track it almost daily.

2. The issue they care about most

Americans say the following issues matter a great deal or are one of the most important factors in their votes:

3. When, how, and who they are voting for

Fifty-seven percent say they might/probably/definite will vote in the 2020 elections, and 31% say they have already voted. 

4. Some concerns that Trump will contest the results

Thirty-six percent of Americans are extremely/very concerned that President Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses.

5. Some concerns that Biden will contest the results

Twenty-six percent of Americans are extremely/very concerned that Vice President Biden will not accept the outcome of the presidential election if he loses.

Coronavirus

6. COVID-19 remains a threat

Seventy-five percent of Americans say the virus poses a real threat.

7. Division over lockdowns and reopenings

Fifty-four percent of Americans think individual states should make the final decision when to re-open their economies. Americans are divided about strict versus flexible approaches: 41% favor strict measures, while 41% favor flexible ones.

8. Too much government power

Sixty-three percent are extremely/very/somewhat concerned that expanded government powers will remain in place after the threat of coronavirus has passed.

9. Striking the right balance

Forty-nine percent say we should balance public health and economic concerns, while 40% think we should put all energy and resources into protecting public health and deal with other consequences after containment. This continues to break along party lines:

10. More closures coming?

Forty-four percent think it’s extremely/very likely that their state will see a spike that leads to a second round of closures whereas 28% think it’s not likely.

The mood across the country

11. Cautious and divided

A majority of Americans (60%) report feeling cautious or concerned 60% report This sentiment is especially prevalent among older Americans: 74% of Americans between 55 and 64-years-old say they are cautious or concerned, and 74% of Americans over 65 years old report the same. Most Americans (53%) also say the pandemic is making us more divided. Again, older Americans feel this even more so (60%).

12. More empathy and self-esteem

For some Americans, feelings have improved: 36% say their sense of concern for others has grown, and 25% say their sense of accomplishment has grown.

13. Declining morale

Feelings have worsened for others: 40% report their sense of social order; 39% say their sense of peace of mind; 37% say their sense of security; and 37% say their sense of freedom.

14. The state of the economy

Thirty-six percent of Americans consider the health of the US economy excellent or good. Thirty-eight percent believe it is poor/in crisis, and 27% say it is fair.

15. The state of public health

When it comes to the state of public health in the US, 38% consider it poor/in crisis. Thirty-four percent consider it excellent/good. Twenty-eight percent consider it fair.

About this polling

State Policy Network is working with Heart + Mind Strategies to track the American public’s opinions through this time of upheaval and change. This data was collected by Heart+Mind Strategies through an online survey conducted October 28-29, 2020 (n=1,004). It represents Wave 22 of the tracking survey, which began on March 18-19, 2020.

Organization: State Policy Network