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Voters Divided on Alleged Biden Assault

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Half the electorate consider voting by mail this year

West Long Branch, NJ – Recent headlines may have dented Joe Biden’s favorability rating ever so slightly but he has actually widened his national lead over Donald Trump in the race for president. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that voters are divided on the credibility of a sexual assault allegation against the Democratic nominee. The poll also finds that former President Barack Obama is largely popular with the American electorate, 2020 voters are not as interested in considering a third party candidate as they were four years ago, and Democrats hold a lead in the generic House ballot. Also, half the nation’s voters are likely to consider voting by mail this November.

Biden currently has the support of 50% of registered voters and Trump has the support of 41%. Another 3% say they would vote for an independent candidate and 5% are undecided. This represents a slightly wider lead for the Democrat than in previous Monmouth polls – 48% to 44% in April and 48% to 45% in March.

When Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan is added to the mix as a Libertarian candidate, Biden gets 47%, Trump gets 40% and Amash gets 5%. During the last presidential cycle, Gary Johnson started his presidential bid as a Libertarian with 11% support in a March 2016 Monmouth poll. His poll standing dropped to 5% by October and he ended up earning just 3% of the national vote. Fewer than 1 in 5 voters have an opinion of Amash (6% favorable and 13% unfavorable), which is similar to voter opinion of Johnson in the spring of 2016 (9% favorable and 15% unfavorable).

“Overall, there is not as much of an appetite for a third option as there was four years ago. It’s too early to tell whether Amash will have an impact but if this election ends up being as close as 2016, even a small showing can have a crucial impact,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Trump registers a negative 40% favorable to 53% unfavorable opinion, which is somewhat more negative than prior polls. The incumbent had a 42% favorable to 50% unfavorable rating in April, a 46% to 49% rating in March, and a 44% to 53% rating in February. Biden’s rating has also slipped over the past two months. The Democrat currently has a negative 41% favorable to 44% unfavorable rating, which is down slightly from even splits in April (41% to 42%) and March (43% to 43%), but is less negative than his standing in February before he emerged as the Democratic frontrunner (40% to 53%).

“Biden’s lead continues to build even as overall opinion of him remains soft. It’s possible that recent headlines about a sexual assault claim may have had an impact on his favorability rating, but most voters still see this election mainly as a referendum on Trump,” said Murray.

Most voters (86%) have heard about an allegation that Biden may have sexually assaulted a woman who worked in his U.S. Senate office in the 1990s. [Note: This question was added to the poll after Biden publicly addressed the issue on Friday morning.] The electorate is divided on the validity of this allegation – 37% say it is probably true, 32% say it is probably not true, and 31% have no opinion. Opinion on this question breaks sharply along partisan lines. More Republicans say the allegation is probably true (50%) than not true (17%) while more Democrats say is it is probably not true (55%) than true (20%). Independents are more likely to feel that the allegation is true (43%) rather than not true (22%), while 35% have no opinion either way. Overall, men (39% true and 29% not true) are slightly more likely than women (35% true and 34% not true) to believe the charge against Biden.

Among voters who say the sexual assault allegation is probably not true, the vast majority (79%) support Biden over Trump (14%) in the presidential contest. Among those who feel it is true, 59% back Trump but 32% still support Biden. Among those who have no opinion on the allegation’s validity, 45% support Trump and 43% support Biden.

“We don’t know what impact this allegation will have in the long run. For some voters who believe the charge, it is still not enough to override their desire to oust Trump. The outlook is murkier for those who don’t have an opinion on it. This group includes a number of Democratic-leaning independents who could potentially be swayed if this story grows in importance,” said Murray.

On the positive side of the ledger for Biden, he received a boost last month with the endorsement of his old boss, Barack Obama. The former president remains broadly popular among American voters with a 57% favorable to 34% unfavorable rating. By party, Obama stands at 92% favorable to 6% unfavorable among Democrats, 56% to 28% among independents, and 19% to 73% among Republicans. Most voters (71%) say that Obama campaigning for Biden would not sway their vote, while 18% say it would make them more likely to support the current Democratic nominee and 10% say it would make them less likely. The true impact is likely to be smaller, though. About 9 in 10 voters who say an Obama appearance would make them more likely to support Biden are already backing the Democrat. A similar number of those who say it would make them less likely already support Trump.

“The real value of having Obama on the campaign trail is not about voter persuasion but to build enthusiasm among the Democratic nominee’s supporters. And if the campaign remains largely digital through the fall, Obama might even help Biden generate media attention that he couldn’t get otherwise,” said Murray.

Some states have already expanded vote by mail (“VBM”) access for this year’s elections and others are considering it in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Just 18% of the nation’s voters say that they regularly vote by mail now, but half say they are either very (31%) or somewhat (20%) likely to cast their ballot by mail this fall. This includes 69% of those who live in states where a majority of the vote is already cast by mail, 45% of those in states that have lower mail turnout but do not require an absentee excuse, and 35% of those in states that require a specific excuse to obtain an absentee ballot. Another 13% of American voters say they are not too likely and 34% are not at all likely to vote by mail this November.

There are also partisan differences in reported intent to cast a mail ballot this year. A majority of Democrats (66%) say they are at least somewhat likely to do this, while about half of independents (48%) and one-third of Republicans (35%) say the same. It should be noted that states that already have high VBM rates also tend to lean more Democratic in election results. However, these partisan differences in intent to vote by mail this year hold regardless of current access by state.

Nearly 6 in 10 voters (57%) say the VBM process in their state is generally easy while just 11% say their state makes it difficult to vote by mail. Another 32% say they do not really know how easy the process is in their state. Those saying it is easy versus difficult varies by type of state, from 74% to 7% in states with high VBM rates (19% don’t know), to 59% to 7% in no-excuse states with lower VBM rates (35% don’t know), and 37% to 19% in states that require an absentee excuse (44% don’t know). Just under 4 in 10 voters (38%) say they would be even more likely to vote by mail this year if their state made it easier to do.

The Monmouth University Poll also finds that a generic ballot test for U.S. House of Representatives currently shows 52% of voters supporting the Democratic candidate in their district and 42% backing the Republican. This 10-point gap in Congressional preference is similar to the polling advantage Democrats held at a similar point in the last midterm election (49% to 41% in April 2018). Democrats went on to win the national House vote by 8 points that November (53% to 45%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 30 to May 4, 2020 with 808 adults in the United States. The results in this release are based on 739 registered voters and have a +/- 3.6 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-3 & 8-17 previously released.]

[Q4-7 & 18-28 held for future release.]

29. How likely is it that you will vote in the November election – are you certain to vote, likely to vote, are you not sure, or are you unlikely to vote?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Certain to vote80%82%86%
Likely to vote 12%10%10%
Not sure 6%5%3%
Unlikely to vote2%2%1%
(VOL) Definitely won’t vote0%1%0%
(n)(739)(743)(754)

30. If the election for President was today, would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican or Joe Biden the Democrat? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Donald Trump or Joe Biden?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Donald Trump41%44%45%
Joe Biden50%48%48%
(VOL) Other candidate3%5%3%
(VOL) No one1%1%0%
(VOL) Undecided5%3%4%
(n)(739)(743)(754)

31. If the candidates were the following, who would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Biden the Democrat, or Justin Amash the Libertarian?[NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Donald Trump40%
Joe Biden47%
Justin Amash5%
(VOL) Other candidate1%
(VOL) No one1%
(VOL) Undecided6%
(n)(739)

32. If the election for U.S. House of Representatives was held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate in your Congressional district? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: At this time do you lean more toward the Republican or more toward the Democratic candidate?]

REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)May
2020
Republican42%
Democratic52%
(VOL) Other candidate 1%
(VOL) No one0%
(VOL) Undecided5%
(n)(739)

[QUESTIONS 33 & 34 WERE ROTATED]

33. Is your general impression of Donald Trump very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable24%24%29%35%35%33%34%30%
Somewhat favorable16%18%17%9%8%13%10%13%
Somewhat unfavorable9%7%7%6%4%5%4%6%
Very unfavorable44%43%42%47%51%47%50%50%
No opinion7%7%5%3%2%2%2%3%
(n)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

34. Is your general impression of Joe Biden very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable15%15%18%16%19%18%18%20%
Somewhat favorable26%26%25%24%23%25%25%26%
Somewhat unfavorable16%17%17%17%16%16%17%18%
Very unfavorable28%25%26%36%33%34%33%27%
No opinion16%17%13%8%8%7%7%9%
(n)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

35. Is your general impression of Justin Amash very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

 REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Very favorable1%
Somewhat favorable5%
Somewhat unfavorable6%
Very unfavorable7%
No opinion81%
(n)(739)

36. Is your general impression of Barack Obama very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Very favorable38%
Somewhat favorable19%
Somewhat unfavorable12%
Very unfavorable22%
No opinion9%
(n)(739)

37. If Barack Obama campaigned for Joe Biden, would that make you more likely or less likely to support Biden than you are now, or would it not change whether you support Biden?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
More likely18%
Less likely10%
Not change71%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(739)

[Note: Question 37X was only asked 5/1-5/4; n=586, m.o.e. = +/- 4.1%]

37X. Have you heard about an allegation that Joe Biden may have sexually assaulted a woman who worked in his Senate office in the 1990s, or have you not heard about this?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Heard86%
Not heard14%
(n)(586)

[Note: Question 37Y was only asked 5/1-5/4; n=586, m.o.e. = +/- 4.1%]

37Y. Do you think this allegation is probably true or probably not true?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Probably true37%
Probably not true32%
(VOL) Don’t know31%
(n)(586)

38. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 2020 presidential election? [Is that very or somewhat optimistic/pessimistic]?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Very optimistic30%28%34%35%
Somewhat optimistic34%34%31%30%
Somewhat pessimistic17%17%15%18%
Very pessimistic12%12%12%12%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care3%4%3%3%
(VOL) Don’t know3%6%5%2%
(n)(739)(743)(754)(827)
COMPARISON: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
2016:Aug.
2016
June
2015
Optimistic64%62%65%65% 55%69%
Pessimistic29%29%27%30% 39%25%
(VOL) Neither3%4%3%3% 3%4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%6%5%2% 3%2%
(n)(739)(743)(754)(827) (803)(829)

2016 QUESTION WORDING: Thinking about the 2016 election, do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about electing a new president?

39. Compared to past elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual, less enthusiastic, or about the same as past elections?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
2016:Aug.
2016*
June
2015*
More enthusiastic26%23%30%39% 21%21%
Less enthusiastic21%17%17%21% 46%22%
About the same52%59%52%40% 31%57%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%1% 2%1%
(n)(739)(743)(754)(827) (803)(829)

     *Asked about the 2016 Presidential election

40. Looking back at recent elections, did you usually vote in person or vote by mail?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
In person81%
By mail16%
 (VOL) Both equally2%
 (VOL) Have not voted in recent elections1%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
(n)(739)

41. How likely are you to cast your vote by mail this November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Very likely31%
Somewhat likely20%
 Not too likely13%
 Not at all likely34%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(739)

42. As far as you know, does your state generally make it easy or make it difficult to vote by mail?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
Easy57%
Difficult11%
(VOL) Don’t know32%
(n)(739)

43. If your state made it easier, would you be more likely to vote by mail this November, or wouldn’t this change your likelihood of voting by mail?

REGISTERED VOTERSMay
2020
More likely38%
Wouldn’t change58%
 (VOL) Already easy enough3%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(739)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 30 to May 4, 2020 with a national random sample of 808 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 285 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 523 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. The results in this poll release are based on a subsample of 739 registered voters. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on the registered voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
REGISTERED VOTERS  
 
30% Republican
34% Independent
35% Democrat
 
47% Male
53% Female
 
28% 18-34
34% 35-54
38% 55+
 
65% White
13% Black
15% Hispanic
  7% Asian/Other
 
66% No degree
34% 4 year degree
 
 

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs