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Biden Takes Likely Voter Lead; Greenfield Maintains Narrow Senate Edge

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

Senior voters prefer the Democrat

West Long Branch, NJ – Joe Biden has taken a small likely voter lead in the presidential race in Iowa, after Donald Trump had the edge in prior polls. At the same time, the U.S. Senate contest has held fairly steady with a small likely voter edge for the Democrat according to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. Biden’s lead is driven largely by a gain in support among seniors and voters in swing counties.

Trump is supported by 48% of registered voters in Iowa and Biden is supported by 47%. Just 2% say they will vote for another candidate and 2% are still undecided. Trump led Biden among registered voters in prior Monmouth polls – by 50% to 44% in September and by 48% to 45% in August.

Biden pulls ahead, though, when different likely voter models+ are applied. A model based on a relatively high level of turnout puts the race at 50% Biden and 47% Trump, while a model reflecting lower turnout produces an even wider 51% to 46% result. Trump led by 3 points among likely voters in Monmouth’s poll last month.

Biden’s lead is wider in the lower turnout scenario because of the large number of Democratic ballots that have already been cast. Over one-third (37%) of registered voters say they have already returned their ballots. The overwhelming majority of these votes have gone to Biden (71%) rather than Trump (28%). If turnout ends up being low at this point, it would be due mainly to Republican-leaning Election Day voters deciding to stay home.

“Republican campaigns face two challenges here. Not only do they need a bigger GOTV effort on Election Day, but any breaking developments that could help them may be too late. Still, we are looking at a couple of very tight race that could go either way,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The challenger has retaken the advantage in 13 counties where the vote margins were closest in the 2016 presidential election. The race is currently 54% Biden and 41% Trump among registered voters in these swing counties* which Hillary Clinton won by a combined one-point margin. Trump had a 51% to 44% lead in these counties last month while Biden led by 52% to 45% in August.

Biden has a strong 66% to 32% lead in three counties – including the state’s largest, Polk – that went for Clinton by 17 points in 2016. He led by 61% to 31% there in September and 62% to 31% there in August. Trump also maintains his sizable margin in the counties he won by a combined 30 points four years ago (60% to 35% now, versus 59% to 35% in September and 59% to 34% in August).

Biden continues to trail Trump among voters aged 18 to 49 (44% Biden to 50% Trump) and 50 to 64 years old (45% Biden to 51% Trump). However, the Democrat has widened his lead among voters aged 65 and older (54% Biden to 43% Trump now, compared with 50% to 46% in September).

IOWA: PRESIDENT VOTER MODELS
 Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
October   
Trump48%47%46%
Biden47%50%51%
    
September   
Trump50%49%49%
Biden44%46%46%
    
August   
Trump48%48%47%
Biden45%46%47%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 15-19, 2020

Of four issues asked about in the poll, the most salient for voters are the potential breakdown of law and order – which 47% of Iowa voters say worries them a lot personally – and the coronavirus pandemic – which 45% worry about a lot. Only about 1 in 3 are worried a lot about having access to medical care when they need it (36%) and knowing they will have a stable income over the next year (32%). All of these issues are less worrisome for Iowa voters than they are for voters in other states Monmouth has polled this month. One demographic group that stands out in the Hawkeye State, though, is senior voters – 62% of those aged 65 and older are worried a lot about the coronavirus outbreak.

When asked who they trust more to handle the pandemic, 46% choose Biden and 36% choose Trump. Senior voters prefer the challenger on this issue by an even larger 54% to 31% margin. Even though Trump has an overall voter advantage on being more trusted to maintain law and order (49%, to 40% for Biden), senior voters are evenly divided on this issue (45% for Biden and 44% for Trump).

“Senior voters are a sizable bloc in Iowa and they prefer Biden on major issues. This group has historically supported Republicans but appears to be rejecting the Trump message here,” said Murray. Trump narrowly won the senior vote in Iowa by 51% to 47% in 2016, according to the National Election Pool exit poll, while he took the state as a whole by 9 points.

The challenger has a small advantage when it comes to voter confidence in keeping health care affordable and accessible – 44% trust Biden more while 40% trust the incumbent. The Democrat’s edge on this issue among seniors is 52% to 37%. Trump’s best issue area is creating jobs and strengthening the economy, where he has a 49% to 37% trust advantage over Biden, although seniors actually prefer Biden by a 45% to 41% margin. Just over half (52%) of Iowa voters say Biden has at least some understanding of the day-to-day concerns of people like them, while half (50%) say the same about Trump.

– Senate race –

Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield and Republican incumbent Joni Ernst remain locked in a tight U.S. Senate battle that has not really shifted in the past month. Among registered voters, the race stands at 47% Greenfield and 47% Ernst, with 2% supporting another candidate and 2% undecided. The Democrat has a nominal 49% to 47% lead among likely voters in Monmouth’s high turnout model, which is similar to her 49% to 46% lead least month. Greenfield has a larger lead in a low turnout scenario (51%, to 45% for Ernst) if low-propensity Republican voters waiting until Election Day do not show up.

IOWA: SENATE VOTER MODELS
 Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
October   
Ernst47%47%45%
Greenfield47%49%51%
    
September   
Ernst47%46%47%
Greenfield47%49%48%
    
August   
Ernst48%48%48%
Greenfield45%47%47%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 15-19, 2020

Both candidates have some challenges presenting an independent image to voters. Slightly more voters say Ernst has been too supportive of President Trump (45%) than say she has given him the right amount of support (42%). Even more voters say Greenfield will be beholden to the left wing of her party if she is elected (50%) than say she will be more of an independent voice (37%). On the other hand, the Democrat has a slight advantage on being seen as understanding the day-to-day concerns of average Iowans – 66% say Greenfield has at least some understanding and 61% say the same about Ernst.

“Perhaps knowing the price of soybeans is more important to voters than partisan ideology right now. But the Senate race has remained pretty stable through the fall,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 15 to 19, 2020 with 501 Iowa registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

  +   Monmouth’s likely voter models for the 2020 election are not forecasts. They are designed to present a range of reasonable outcomes based on voter intentions as of this moment (including ballots already cast). Each registered voter is assigned a probabilistic weight between 0 and 1, based primarily on past voting history, with adjustments for self-reported likelihood to vote, motivation and other factors. Further adjustments are applied to the aggregate sample based on turnout propensities among different demographic groups (e.g. by race, gender, education).

  * 2016 presidential margin by county groupings:

Swing (31% of turnout) – 13 counties where the winning margin for either candidate was less than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 46.7% Clinton and 45.7% Trump (Black Hawk, Cerro Gordo, Clinton, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Jefferson, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Scott, Winneshiek).

Clinton (23% of turnout) – 3 counties where Clinton won by more than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 54.5% to 37.3% (Johnson, Polk, Story).

Trump (46% of turnout) – 83 counties where Trump won by more than 10 points, with a cumulative vote of 61.7% to 32.0%.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

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

[Note: Voters who report already casting their ballots were asked, “In the election for X, did you vote for…” for Q1 and Q4.]

1.If the election for President was today, would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Biden the Democrat, Jo Jorgensen the Libertarian, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, or another candidate? [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)Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Donald Trump48%50%48%
Joe Biden47%44%45%
Jo Jorgensen1%2%3%
Howie Hawkins0%<1%n/a
Another candidate1%1%<1%
(VOL) No one1%0%<1%
(VOL) Undecided2%2%3%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

[1A.  If Trump/Biden voter, ASK: Are you certain about your vote choice, or might you change your mind before election day?]

[QUESTIONS 2 & 3 WERE ROTATED]

2.What is the likelihood that you might vote for Donald Trump in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Certain for Trump (from Q1/A)45%45%38%
Very likely 2%1%4%
Somewhat likely 4%6%8%
Not too likely2%3%6%
Not at all likely46%45%45%
(VOL) Don’t know2%0%0%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

3.What is the likelihood that you might vote for Joe Biden in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Certain for Biden (from Q1/A)43%36%36%
Very likely 2%4%3%
Somewhat likely 4%6%9%
Not too likely2%5%7%
Not at all likely49%50%46%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%0%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

4.If the election for U.S. Senate was today, would you vote for … Joni Ernst the Republican, Theresa Greenfield the Democrat, Rick Stewart the Libertarian, or Suzanne Herzog the independent? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Joni Ernst or Theresa Greenfield?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Joni Ernst47%47%48%
Theresa Greenfield47%47%45%
Rick Stewart1%1%2%
Suzanne Herzog1%<1%1%
(VOL) Other<1%<1%0%
(VOL) No one1%<1%1%
(VOL) Undecided2%4%3%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

[Q5 held for future release.]

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very optimistic30%33%28%
Somewhat optimistic31%32%34%
Somewhat pessimistic16%17%17%
Very pessimistic12%12%14%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care5%2%2%
(VOL) Don’t know6%4%4%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

7.How motivated are you to vote in the November election for president – very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not that motivated?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very motivated86%87%83%
Somewhat motivated10%10%13%
Not that motivated4%3%4%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%0%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
More enthusiastic42%46%35%
Less enthusiastic14%13%15%
About the same42%41%51%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%0%
(n)(501)(402)(401)

[QUESTIONS 9 & 10 WERE ROTATED]

9.How much does Donald Trump understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Great deal32%31%
Some18%19%
Not much10%10%
Not at all39%38%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%
(n)(501)(402)

10.How much does Joe Biden understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Great deal28%22%
Some24%24%
Not much14%15%
Not at all32%36%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%
(n)(501)(402)

11.For each of the following situations please tell me if it personally worries you a lot, a little, or not at all? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Knowing you will have access to medical care if you need it

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot36%
A little25%
Not at all38%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
(n)(501)

Knowing you will have a stable income over the next year

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot32%
A little28%
Not at all39%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

The possible breakdown of law and order

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot47%
A little32%
Not at all20%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(501)

The coronavirus pandemic

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot45%
A little32%
Not at all22%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

[QUESTIONS 12-15 WERE ROTATED]

12.Who do you trust more to keep health care affordable and accessible – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump40%
Joe Biden44%
Both equally13%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

13.Who do you trust more on creating jobs and strengthening the economy – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump49%
Joe Biden37%
Both equally13%
(VOL) Neither0%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

14.Who do you trust more on maintaining law and order – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump49%
Joe Biden40%
Both equally10%
(VOL) Neither1%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

15.Who do you trust more on handling the coronavirus pandemic – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump36%
Joe Biden46%
Both equally15%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

[QUESTIONS 16 & 17 WERE ROTATED]

16.Do you think Joni Ernst has given Donald Trump the right amount of support, or has she been too supportive of the president at times?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Right amount42%
Too supportive45%
(VOL) Don’t know12%
(n)(501)

17.Do you think Theresa Greenfield will be more of an independent voice if she is elected to the Senate, or will she be more beholden to the left wing of the Democratic Party?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Independent voice37%
Beholden to the left50%
(VOL) Don’t know13%
(n)(501)

[QUESTIONS 18 & 19 WERE ROTATED]

18.How much does Joni Ernst understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Great deal25%
Some36%
Not much17%
Not at all20%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(501)

19.How much does Theresa Greenfield understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Great deal26%
Some40%
Not much13%
Not at all16%
(VOL) Don’t know6%
(n)(501)

20.How will you vote this year – in person on Election Day, in person at an early voting location, or by mail ballot? [If ALREADY VOTED: How did you vote this year…?]

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
In person on Election Day40%
In person at an early voting location18%
By mail ballot41%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(501)

21.Overall, how confident are you that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately – very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Very confident28%
Somewhat confident43%
Not too confident19%
Not at all confident9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

22.In the past week, have you been contacted by a political campaign via phone, text or email urging you to vote or support a particular candidate? [If YES: How many times has this happened in the past week – more than once a day, about once a day, or less often?]

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Yes, more than once a day31%
Yes, about once a day24%
Yes, less often13%
(VOL) Yes, but not sure how often1%
No, have not been contacted29%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(501)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 15 to 19, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 501 Iowa voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 213 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 288 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for party registration, age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the full voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.4 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
 
Party Registration
34% Republican
32% Other/none
34% Democrat
 
Self-Reported Party
36% Republican
37% Independent
27% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
22% 18-34
23% 35-49
26% 50-64
29% 65+
 
91% White, non-Hispanic
  3% Black
  4% Hispanic
  1% Asian
  1% Other
 
68% No degree
32% 4 year degree

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

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs