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Voter Doubt of 2020 Outcome Possible

Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020

Trump statements about the military show little impact on the race

West Long Branch, NJ – Joe Biden is seen as more respectful of American troops than Donald Trump, but recent news stories about this issue have not impacted the overall race for president. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds Biden with a 9-point lead over Trump among registered voters and a 7-point lead among likely voters. The registered voter result is similar to where the race stood a month ago, while this is the first time Monmouth is using a national likely voter model. The poll also finds some evidence about potential for voter distrust in whatever the eventual outcome may be, including the prospect of foreign meddling, the possibility of campaign cheating, and a belief in the existence of “secret voters” who will materialize on Election Day.

Biden is currently supported by 51% of registered voters and Trump by 42%. The remaining vote is scattered across third-party candidates, including Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (2%), the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins (2%), and other candidates (1%), while 3% of voters are undecided.  This is similar to the Democrat’s pre-convention lead of 51% to 41% last month. The poll also includes Monmouth’s first national likely voter model of the cycle, which has Biden ahead by 7 points at 51% to 44%. Jorgensen and Hawkins each earn 1% support from likely voters and another 2% are undecided.

Biden continues to have more firm support – 43% of all registered voters and 45% of likely voters say they are certain to vote for him – than Trump does. Certain support for the incumbent comes from 37% of registered voters and 41% of likely voters. About half of the electorate (50% registered and 49% likely) continues to say they are not at all likely to support the incumbent, while about 4 in 10 (40% registered and 42% likely) say the same for the challenger.

The poll also finds that 7 in 10 registered voters say Biden respects our military troops and veterans a great deal (48%) or some (23%). Just over half say the same about Trump (41% great deal and 14% some). At the other end of the spectrum, 30% of voters say Trump has no respect at all for military personnel and just 12% say the same about Biden. Among voters who are not firmly committed to either major party candidate – including undecided and third party voters – 70% say Biden has at least some respect for our troops versus 8% who say he has none at all. Among this same group of voters, 54% say Trump has at least some respect for the troops versus 22% who say he has none at all.

“Biden has an edge on the question of respecting those who serve in our armed forces, but it doesn’t really look like recent allegations of Trump allegedly disparaging them have created any notable change in the campaign’s trajectory,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll includes a number of findings suggesting that a small but sizable number of voters could be suspicious of the election result whatever it may be. About 6 in 10 voters are confident – 22% very and 39% somewhat – that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately. But, another 24% are not too confident and 13% are not at all confident in how the election will be conducted. Firm Biden voters (70%) are somewhat more likely than firm Trump voters (57%) to be at least somewhat confident in the upcoming election process, although there is no difference between these two blocs in the number who are not at all confident (13% for each group).

“We usually focus on the majority’s view when describing public opinion, but in this case minority opinion could be sizable enough to have an impact on the election’s legitimacy. The question is whether any disbelief in the outcome might lead to other consequences,” said Murray.

One poll finding that indicates some potential for skepticism of the election result is the fact that more registered voters think Trump (48%) will win the election rather than Biden (43%) despite Biden’s consistent lead in the polls. Among firm Trump supporters, 92% expect their candidate to win and just 2% feel he will lose. Among firm Biden supporters, 80% expect the Democrat to win and 12% think he will lose. Among all other voters, including soft supporters and undecided voters, 43% believe Trump will win and 39% believe Biden will win.

“Of course, most voters believed that Clinton was going to win four years ago and they accepted the different outcome. But the reasons why voters think Trump will win again suggest that some may not accept this year’s result if he loses,” said Murray.

A majority of voters (55%) think there are so-called secret voters in their community who support Trump but won’t tell anyone about it. This includes 67% of firm Trump voters, 49% of firm Biden voters, and 44% of other voters. Far fewer (30%) believe that there are secret Biden voters in their community, including 37% of firm Biden voters, 24% of firm Trump voters, and 28% of other voters.

“Look, we are not asking this question as some backdoor way to tap into a secret Trump vote that the polls are missing. We have plenty of evidence that there was no measureable secret vote in 2016 or this year either. However, voters’ belief that a secret Trump vote does exist is a very real phenomenon we need to acknowledge. If this expected vote does not materialize on Election Day, some Democrats will be pleasantly surprised and some Republicans will be shocked. The question is how many in this latter group will go one step further and reject the validity of the result,” said Murray.

The poll also finds that more voters think the Trump campaign will try to cheat if necessary to win in November – 38% say this is very likely and 14% somewhat likely – than say the same about the Biden campaign – 25% very likely and 14% somewhat likely. As may be expected, nearly all firm Biden supporters expect Trump to cheat (91%) and very few say the same about their own candidate (8%). The same dynamic is true for firm Trump supporters, but not quite as widespread when it comes to cheating by the challenger – 78% say it is likely the Biden campaign will cheat and 8% say the same for Trump. Among voters who are undecided or not firmly committed to either candidate, 53% feel it is likely the Trump campaign will cheat compared with 30% who say the Biden campaign will cheat.

“The president has already started sowing doubt about election integrity. This not only increases skepticism among his own supporters but also raises suspicion among his opponents. So basically, we have voters on both sides who are becoming more inclined to distrust a result they won’t agree with. And that simply can’t be good for the health of the republic,” said Murray.

Another factor at play in undermining the credibility of our election results is the role of foreign actors. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of registered voters think it is at least probable that the Russian government is trying to interfere in the presidential election. Just under 6 in 10 (57%) say the same about the Chinese government. There are notable partisan differences for these questions that are much starker for Russia than China. Unsurprisingly, Biden voters (85%) are more likely than Trump voters (42%) to buy into the idea of Russian meddling. Trump voters (64%) are more likely than Biden voters (55%) to think the same of China. Just under half (48%) the electorate is concerned that Trump may be too friendly toward Russia – a result that is pretty much in line with voter opinion since Monmouth started asking this question during the 2016 campaign. By comparison, 37% of voters are concerned that Biden may be too friendly toward China.

Other results in the Monmouth University Poll find that overall voter opinion of Biden stands at 47% favorable and 44% unfavorable. Trump gets a negative 40% favorable and 53% unfavorable opinion. Biden’s positive rating is up from 42% in August, while Trump’s has not moved from 40% a month ago. Currently, 16% of registered voters do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate, which is down slightly from 22% in August. Biden remains the preferred presidential choice among this group by 42% to 22%. This is somewhat narrower than the Democrat’s 55% to 17% edge among this group last month. Among likely voters, just 11% do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate, with Biden maintaining a 50% to 26% lead with this group. Even though Biden’s advantage has narrowed among voters who don’t like either candidate, it appears to be a product of some voters developing a favorable opinion of the candidate they were already supporting.

“Both shifts are positive for the challenger. Some voters who were supporting Biden primarily as an anti-Trump vote have developed a more favorable opinion of the Democrat. That’s a good indicator for his ability to hold their support. And Biden continues to have a decisive edge among voters who still hold their noses about both candidates,” said Murray.

The Democratic ticket also does better than the Republican one on opinion of the running mates. Sen. Kamala Harris has a 43% favorable and 37% unfavorable rating among registered voters. Back in November of last year, when she was still running for the top spot, she earned a negative 27% favorable and 46% unfavorable rating from American voters. Vice President Mike Pence’s rating is the mirror image of his opponent’s at 38% favorable and 42% unfavorable. He had a nominally positive 33% favorable and 23% unfavorable rating four years ago shortly after accepting his party’s nomination to be on the GOP ticket for the first time.

The Monmouth University Poll also posed a generic ballot test for the U.S. House of Representatives election. The results show Democrats remaining ahead of Republicans – by 49% to 43% among registered voters and by 49% to 45% among likely voters. However, registered voter preference in the congressional race has narrowed since May when it stood at 52% Democrat to 42% Republican. Democrats won the national House vote in the 2018 midterms by 8 points (53% to 45%) after losing it by one point in 2016 (47% to 48%).

Currently, 49% of American voters feel more enthusiastic about this election compared to past elections, 12% are less enthusiastic, and 38% say they feel about the same level of enthusiasm. The “more enthusiastic” number is a jump from prior results (40% in August and late June, which was up from a low of 23% in April). This level of enthusiasm is significantly higher than four years ago, when just 21% felt more enthusiastic about the 2016 election and 46% felt less enthusiastic. Currently, 57% of Democrats, 51% of Republicans, and 42% of independents feel more enthusiastic than usual about the 2020 campaign.

Enthusiasm is not the same as optimism, however. Republicans (49%) are more likely than Democrats (33%) and independents (22%) to say they are very optimistic about the presidential election this year, as they have been throughout the year.

“This is another example where we see Republicans feeling a bit more certain that the outcome will go their way,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 3 to 8, 2020 with 867 adults in the United States. The results in this release are based on 758 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.)

1. 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 VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Certain to vote86%85%85%86%80%82%86%
Likely to vote 10%10%10%9%12%10%10%
Not sure 4%3%3%3%6%5%3%
Unlikely to vote1%2%1%2%2%2%1%
(VOL) Definitely won’t vote0%0%0%0%0%1%0%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)

2. 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)Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020*
Late
June
2020*
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Donald Trump42%41%39%41%41%41%44%45%
Joe Biden51%51%52%53%52%50%48%48%
Jo Jorgensen2%2%4%n/an/an/an/an/a
Howie Hawkins2%1%<1%n/an/an/an/an/a
Other candidate*1%1%2%4%5%3%5%3%
(VOL) No one<1%1%<1%<1%1%1%1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided3%4%3%2%1%5%3%4%
(n)(758)(785)(359)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)

* Late June poll asked two versions of the vote questions with and without 3rd party candidates named.

“Other” was a volunteered response in March to early June polls.

[2A.  If Trump/Biden voter, ASK: Are you certain about your vote choice, or might you change your mind before election day?]

[QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED]

3. 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 VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Certain for Trump (from Q2/A)37%35%34%
Very likely 1%2%2%
Somewhat likely 7%6%6%
Not too likely4%4%6%
Not at all likely50%50%50%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%1%
(n)(758)(785)(733)

4. 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 VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Certain for Biden (from Q2/A)43%39%40%
Very likely 4%4%3%
Somewhat likely 7%9%9%
Not too likely5%5%6%
Not at all likely40%40%39%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%2%
(n)(758)(785)(733)

5. 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?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Sept.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
Republican43%42%43%42%
Democratic49%50%52%52%
(VOL) Other candidate <1%1%1%1%
(VOL) No one<1%<1%1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided7%6%4%5%
(n)(758)(733)(742)(739)

[Q6-7 previously released.]

[QUESTIONS 8 & 9 WERE ROTATED]

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable26%23%22%26%24%24%29%35%35%33%34%30%
Somewhat favorable14%17%16%12%16%18%17%9%8%13%10%13%
Somewhat unfavorable7%8%9%9%9%7%7%6%4%5%4%6%
Very unfavorable46%46%46%48%44%43%42%47%51%47%50%50%
No opinion6%7%7%5%7%7%5%3%2%2%2%3%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable26%17%16%15%15%15%18%16%19%18%18%20%
Somewhat favorable21%25%28%27%26%26%25%24%23%25%25%26%
Somewhat unfavorable9%14%13%18%16%17%17%17%16%16%17%18%
Very unfavorable35%33%31%31%28%25%26%36%33%34%33%27%
No opinion9%12%12%9%16%17%13%8%8%7%7%9%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

[QUESTIONS 10 & 11 WERE ROTATED]

10. Is your general impression of Mike Pence very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
 Aug.
2016
July
2016
Very favorable26% Fav33%22%
Somewhat favorable12%
Somewhat unfavorable7% Unfav23%14%
Very unfavorable35%
No opinion19% 44%64%
(n)(758) (803)(805)

11. Is your general impression of Kamala Harris very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Nov.
2019*
Sept.
2019*
Very favorable26%8%12%
Somewhat favorable17%19%21%
Somewhat unfavorable7%13%12%
Very unfavorable30%33%30%
No opinion19%27%25%
(n)(758)(835)(1,017)

          *2019 polls offered “not heard of” as a response option. These results were combined with “no opinion.”

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

TREND: REGISTERED
VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Very optimistic33%29%31%31%30%28%34%35%
Somewhat optimistic33%35%32%31%34%34%31%30%
Somewhat pessimistic16%20%18%19%17%17%15%18%
Very pessimistic11%12%13%15%12%12%12%12%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care3%3%3%2%3%4%3%3%
(VOL) Don’t know3%1%4%2%3%6%5%2%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)
COMPARISON: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
2016:Aug.
2016
June
2015
Optimistic66%64%63%62%64%62%65%65% 55%69%
Pessimistic27%32%31%34%29%29%27%30% 39%25%
(VOL) Neither3%3%3%2%3%4%3%3% 3%4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%1%4%2%3%6%5%2% 3%2%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(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?

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

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Very motivated85%83%86%
Somewhat motivated10%9%9%
Not that motivated5%7%5%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%0%
(n)(758)(785)(733)

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

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
2016:Aug.
2016*
June
2015*
More enthusiastic49%40%40%28%26%23%30%39% 21%21%
Less enthusiastic12%17%15%24%21%17%17%21% 46%22%
About the same38%43%44%47%52%59%52%40% 31%57%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%0%1%1%1%1% 2%1%
(n)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827) (803)(829)

    *Asked about the 2016 Presidential election.

15. Regardless of who you support, who do you think will win the presidential election this year – Donald Trump or Joe Biden? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Trump48%
Biden43%
(VOL) Other0%
(VOL) Don’t know9%
(n)(758)

[QUESTIONS 16 & 17 WERE ROTATED]

16. Do you think there are so-called secret voters in your community who support Donald Trump but won’t tell anyone about it, or not really?  [If YES: Would you say that many voters are like this or only a few?]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Yes, many27%
Yes, only a few15%
Yes, not sure how many13%
No, not really39%
(VOL) Don’t know7%
(n)(758)

17. Do you think there are so-called secret voters in your community who support Joe Biden but won’t tell anyone about it, or not really?  [If YES: Would you say that many voters are like this or only a few?]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Yes, many9%
Yes, only a few11%
Yes, not sure how many10%
No, not really60%
(VOL) Don’t know10%
(n)(758)

18. 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?

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very confident22%21%
Somewhat confident39%42%
Not too confident24%24%
Not at all confident13%12%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(758)(785)

[QUESTIONS 19 & 20 WERE ROTATED]

19. How likely is it that the Trump campaign will try to cheat if necessary to win in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Very likely 38%
Somewhat likely 14%
Not too likely15%
Not at all likely30%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(758)

20. How likely is it that the Biden campaign will try to cheat if necessary to win in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Very likely 25%
Somewhat likely 14%
Not too likely16%
Not at all likely41%
(VOL) Don’t know5%
(n)(758)

[QUESTIONS 21 & 22 WERE ROTATED]

21. Do you think the Russian government is trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election – would you say definitely, probably, probably not, or definitely not?

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Dec.
2019*
Definitely36%39%
Probably28%27%
Probably not21%16%
Definitely not10%13%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%
(n)(758)(838)

* Question wording in Dec. 2019 was “will try to interfere”.

22. Do you think the Chinese government is trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election – would you say definitely, probably, probably not, or definitely not?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Definitely22%
Probably35%
Probably not26%
Definitely not9%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
(n)(758)

[QUESTIONS 23 & 24 WERE ROTATED]

23. Are you concerned or not concerned that Donald Trump may be too friendly toward Russia?  [If CONCERNED: Are you concerned a lot or a little?]

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Sept.
2020
Dec.
2019
June
2019
Jan.
2019
March
2018
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016
Concerned, a lot35%35%39%41%39%38%40%39%33%32%
Concerned, a little13%11%10%10%14%14%11%10%15%13%
Not concerned51%50%48%47%45%44%45%49%49%49%
(VOL) Don’t know2%4%3%2%2%3%3%2%3%6%
(n)(758)(838)(527)(735)(708)(713)(896)(722)(708)(803)

24. Are you concerned or not concerned that Joe Biden may be too friendly toward China?  [If CONCERNED: Are you concerned a lot or a little?]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Concerned, a lot24%
Concerned, a little13%
Not concerned59%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
(n)(758)

[Note: Questions 24X and 24Y were only asked 9/4-9/8; n=617, m.o.e. = +/-4.0%]

[QUESTIONS 24X & 24Y WERE ROTATED]

24X. Would you say Donald Trump respects our military troops and veterans a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Great deal41%
Some14%
Not much15%
Not at all30%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(617)

24Y. Would you say Joe Biden respects our military troops and veterans a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2020
Great deal48%
Some23%
Not much13%
Not at all12%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
(n)(617)

[Q25-36 held for future release.]

[Q37-45 previously released.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 3 to 8, 2020 with a national random sample of 867 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 325 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 542 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. The results in this poll release are based on a subsample of 758 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  
 
29% Republican
39% Independent
32% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
26% 18-34
20% 35-49
27% 50-64
28% 65+
 
65% White
13% Black
15% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
67% No degree
33% 4 year degree
 

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

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs