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Voters Split on Filling SCOTUS Seat

Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Some bothered by Trump position on transfer of power;
Few expect first debate will change their minds

West Long Branch, NJ – There has been a slight narrowing in the presidential race in the latest national Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. Still, half the electorate say they have ruled out a vote for Donald Trump while Joe Biden has an edge on understanding voter concerns. The country is divided on filling the current Supreme Court vacancy, which marks a shift from four years ago when most voters supported considering a nomination, even at the end of a president’s term. In other poll findings, most voters plan to watch Tuesday night’s debate but very few expect it will change their minds. A bare majority of voters are bothered by Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful handoff if he should lose.

Biden is currently supported by 50% of registered voters and Trump by 44%. The remaining vote is scattered across third-party candidates, including Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (2%), the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins (1%), and other candidates (1%), while 2% of voters are undecided. This is smaller than the Democrat’s lead of 51% to 42% coming out of the party conventions earlier this month. Biden’s lead over the summer had ranged from 10 to 13 points. Among likely voters, Biden currently leads Trump by 5 points (50% to 45%), with 1% each for Jorgensen and Hawkins. The Democrat had a 7-point likely voter lead earlier in the month (51% to 44%).

Independent voters are split at 43% for Trump and 41% for Biden. The Democrat had a small 47% to 40% advantage with this group at the start of the month. Geographically, Biden has also lost his advantage among voters living in swing counties – the counties where either Trump or Hillary Clinton won the vote by less than 10 points in 2016. Voter preferences in these counties now stands at 47% Trump and 46% Biden, whereas the challenger held a 47% to 40% edge earlier this month. Other demographic trends are fairly stable.

Biden’s firm support remains stable – 43% of all registered voters and 44% of likely voters are certain to vote for him. In early September, these numbers were 43% and 45%, respectively. Trump’s firm support stands at 40% of registered and 42% of likely voters now versus 37% and 41% earlier in the month. On the flip side, about half of the electorate (49% registered and 49% likely) are not at all likely to support the incumbent, which has been extremely stable since the summer. Fewer voters (44% registered and 45% likely) reject the challenger outright, but this sentiment has ticked up since early September (40% registered and 42% likely).

“Half the national electorate has been dead set against reelecting the president all along. But that does not mean they have completely gotten behind the challenger, particularly in the most competitive areas of the country,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Other results in the Monmouth University Poll find that overall voter opinion of Biden stands at 47% favorable and 46% unfavorable, while Trump gets a negative 42% favorable and 51% unfavorable rating. Opinion of the two candidates has been fairly stable in recent polls, but one metric that has been moving is the number of voters who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate. This currently stands at 13% of all registered voters, which is down slightly from 16% in early September and 22% in August. Biden remains the preferred choice among this group (39% to 24% for Trump). More voters (52%) say Biden understands the daily concerns of people like them than say the same about Trump (44%). At the same time, nearly two-thirds of voters feel they have a good idea about the specific policies each candidate would pursue to help American families – 64% say it for Biden and 63% for Trump.

– Supreme Court vacancy –

American voters are split on the general question of whether the U.S. Senate should consider a nominee for the Supreme Court at the very end of a president’s term (47%) or if this should be put on hold until after the election (49%). Public sentiment on this question is different from March 2016 when a similar court vacancy occurred. Then, a clear majority (57%) of voters said the Senate should vet a nominee versus 39% who said the process should be put on hold.

In what should come as no surprise, 83% of Republicans say such a nomination should move forward today, although only 36% of GOP voters felt this way a little over four years ago when Barack Obama was president. Likewise, just 16% of Democrats approve of considering a nominee now even though 74% felt that way in 2016. Among independents, 48% say a nomination late in the president’s term should be considered, although this number is somewhat lower than independents felt four years ago (60%).

When asked specifically about the current vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 46% of voters approve and 51% disapprove Trump trying to fill it before the election. However, that opinion is basically flipped when voters are asked if the Senate should hold hearings on his nominee – 53% say it should and 43% say it should not. In 2016, 73% of voters said that the Senate should hold hearings on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Voters were asked about their sense of the ideological views of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s pick for the current vacancy. Nearly half (49%) think she is more of a conservative and only 5% think she is more of a moderate, while another 44% say they haven’t heard enough about her. Similar numbers of Republicans (50%) and Democrats (55%) see Barrett as conservative. When Garland was nominated in 2016, 25% of voters thought he was more of a moderate and just 12% thought he was more of a liberal, while 60% had not heard enough to judge.

“It’s unlikely that voters know any more about Barrett than they did about Garland when he was nominated. However, they start out with a much clearer expectation about the type of jurist Trump would pick,” said Murray.

– First presidential debate –

About 3 in 4 voters (74%) plan to watch the first presidential debate live on Tuesday night, although just 3% say that they are very likely to hear something that will impact their eventual vote choice. Another 10% say this is somewhat likely to happen and 87% say this is not likely. These results are practically identical to a Monmouth poll taken right before the first debate in September 2016, when 75% planned to watch that event live while very few said it was likely to affect their vote (2% very and 10% somewhat).

“There was more volatility in the electorate in 2016 than there is today. But these results underscore the fact that the audience for these debates are voters who already have a rooting interest in one side or the other. The spin and media framing after the fact is more important for potentially moving the small group of persuadable voters who remain,” said Murray.

A majority of voters (63%) would like to see the debate moderator fact check a candidate who states false information during the debate. Just 30% say this task should be left to the two candidates. The current poll results are similar to overall voter opinion in 2016 (60% moderator fact check and 31% leave to candidates). However, there has been a slight decrease among Republicans who would like to see the moderator undertake this role (from 51% four years ago to 44% now), while this opinion has gone up among Democrats (from 67% to 76%) and independents (from 60% to 67%).

“Don’t hold your breath for instant fact checks from Chris Wallace. The debate commission said this is not the moderator’s role, even if the public wants it to be,” said Murray. Wallace of Fox News will moderate the first debate.

– Electoral process –

Trump has not committed to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election, saying on one occasion, “We’re going to have to see what happens.” Just over half of voters say the president’s statement bothers them (41% a great deal and 14% some), while 12% are not bothered much by this and 32% are not bothered at all. By party, 72% of Democrats are bothered a great deal by Trump’s statement while 57% of Republicans are not bothered at all. Among independents, 39% are bothered a great deal and 29% are not bothered at all.

The vast majority of voters (80%) express some concern about the possibility of election meddling undermining the integrity of the results. This includes 42% who are very concerned and 38% somewhat concerned. The total number concerned has increased from last month (72%), with the biggest increase coming among Republicans (from 66% in August to 81% now). By comparison, concern has gone up less dramatically among independents (from 70% to 77%) and Democrats (from 78% to 83%).

“Republicans have grown more concerned about election integrity and Democrats are worried about the transfer of power. The common denominator in both is Trump casting doubt on our country’s electoral processes,” said Murray. He added, “The fact that reporters and pollsters even feel the need to ask these types of questions should itself be worrying for every American citizen.”

Still, 6 in 10 American voters are confident – 24% very and 36% somewhat – that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately in the end. Democrats (68%) are more likely than independents (56%) and Republicans (55%) to feel this way. These findings have been stable since Monmouth started asking this question in August.

– House ballot –

The Monmouth University Poll also asked about the U.S. House of Representatives election. The results show Democrats remaining ahead of Republicans in the generic ballot test – by 50% to 43% among registered voters and by 50% to 44% among likely voters. These results have not really changed since earlier this month (49% to 43% among registered voters and by 49% to 45% among likely voters). 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%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone September 24 to 27, 2020 with 809 registered voters in the United States. The results in this release have a +/- 3.5 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 – have you already voted, are you certain to vote, likely to vote, are you not sure, or are you unlikely to vote?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSLate
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Already voted2%n/an/an/an/an/an/an/a
Certain to vote80%86%85%85%86%80%82%86%
Likely to vote 15%10%10%10%9%12%10%10%
Not sure 2%4%3%3%3%6%5%3%
Unlikely to vote1%1%2%1%2%2%2%1%
(VOL) Definitely won’t vote0%0%0%0%0%0%1%0%
(n)(809)(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)Late Sept.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020*
Late June
2020*
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Donald Trump44%42%41%39%41%41%41%44%45%
Joe Biden50%51%51%52%53%52%50%48%48%
Jo Jorgensen2%2%2%4%n/an/an/an/an/a
Howie Hawkins1%2%1%<1%n/an/an/an/an/a
Other candidate*1%1%1%2%4%5%3%5%3%
(VOL) No one<1%<1%1%<1%<1%1%1%1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided2%3%4%3%2%1%5%3%4%
(n)(809)(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 VOTERSLate
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Certain for Trump (from Q2/A)40%37%35%34%
Very likely 2%1%2%2%
Somewhat likely 4%7%6%6%
Not too likely3%4%4%6%
Not at all likely49%50%50%50%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%3%1%
(n)(809)(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 VOTERSLate
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Certain for Biden (from Q2/A)43%43%39%40%
Very likely 2%4%4%3%
Somewhat likely 7%7%9%9%
Not too likely3%5%5%6%
Not at all likely44%40%40%39%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%3%2%
(n)(809)(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? [PARTIES 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)Late
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
Republican43%43%42%43%42%
Democratic50%49%50%52%52%
(VOL) Other candidate <1%<1%1%1%1%
(VOL) No one1%<1%<1%1%<1%
(VOL) Undecided5%7%6%4%5%
(n)(809)(758)(733)(742)(739)

[QUESTIONS 6 & 7 WERE ROTATED]

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec. 2019Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable27%26%23%22%26%24%24%29%35%35%33%34%30%
Somewhat favorable15%14%17%16%12%16%18%17%9%8%13%10%13%
Somewhat unfavorable7%7%8%9%9%9%7%7%6%4%5%4%6%
Very unfavorable44%46%46%46%48%44%43%42%47%51%47%50%50%
No opinion7%6%7%7%5%7%7%5%3%2%2%2%3%
(n)(809)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

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

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
 2020
Jan.
2020
Dec. 2019Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Very favorable25%26%17%16%15%15%15%18%16%19%18%18%20%
Somewhat favorable22%21%25%28%27%26%26%25%24%23%25%25%26%
Somewhat unfavorable10%9%14%13%18%16%17%17%17%16%16%17%18%
Very unfavorable36%35%33%31%31%28%25%26%36%33%34%33%27%
No opinion7%9%12%12%9%16%17%13%8%8%7%7%9%
(n)(809)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)(847)(838)(835)(1,017)

[QUESTIONS 8 & 9 WERE ROTATED]

8.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?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Great deal29%
Some15%
Not much10%
Not at all45%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(809)

9.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?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Great deal25%
Some27%
Not much16%
Not at all30%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(809)

[QUESTIONS 10 & 11 WERE ROTATED]

10.Do you feel you have a good idea about the specific policies Trump would pursue to help American families if he is elected to another term, or do you feel you don’t really know what he would do?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Have a good idea63%
Don’t really know33%
(VOL) His policies won’t help at all3%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(809)

11.Do you feel you have a good idea about the specific policies Biden would pursue to help American families if he is elected president, or do you feel you don’t really know what he would do?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Have a good idea64%
Don’t really know33%
(VOL) His policies won’t help at all2%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(809)

12.Which of the following statements comes closer to your view: The sitting president has the power to nominate Supreme Court justices and the Senate should consider those nominations even if they occur at the very end of a president’s term – or – Supreme Court vacancies that occur at the end of a president’s term should be put on hold so that voters can consider the potential nomination when deciding who to elect as the next president? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

COMPARISON: REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
March
2016*
Senate should consider47%57%
Put on hold49%39%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%
(n)(809)(848)

* 2016 was asked after Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland.

13.There is now a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Do you approve or disapprove of President Trump trying to fill the vacancy before the election?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Approve46%
Disapprove51%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(809)

14.Do you think the U.S. Senate should or should not hold hearings to consider Trump’s nominee?

COMPARISON:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Late Sept.
2020
March
2016*
Should53%73%
Should not43%23%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%
(n)(809)(848)

* 2016 was asked after Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland.

 [Question 14A was added on 9/25: n=601, m.o.e.=+/-4.0%.]

14A.You may have heard that President Trump intends to nominate Amy Coney Barrett for the position. From what you have heard about her, do you think she is more of a liberal, a conservative, or a moderate, or haven’t you heard enough about her?

COMPARISON:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Late Sept.
2020
March
2016*
Liberal1%12%
Conservative49%3%
Moderate5%25%
Haven’t heard enough44%60%
(VOL) Don’t know2%0%
(n)(601)(848)

* 2016 was asked about Merrick Garland.

15.As you may know the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden will be held Tuesday night. Do you plan to watch the debate live or not?

COMPARISON:Late Sept.
2020
Sept.
2016*
Yes74%75%
No20%18%
(VOL) May watch clips later4%3%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%
(n)(809)(802)

* Asked about the first 2016 presidential debate.

16.How likely is it that the debate will [change/help you make up] your mind about which candidate you intend to support – very likely, somewhat likely, or not likely?

COMPARISON:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Late Sept.
2020
Sept.
2016*
Very likely3%2%
Somewhat likely10%10%
Not likely87%87%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(809)(802)

* Asked about the first 2016 presidential debate.

17.Should the debate moderator fact check a candidate who states false information during the debate, or should he leave it to the candidates to point out any false information stated by their opponent?

COMPARISON:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Late Sept.
2020
Sept.
2016*
Moderator should fact check63%60%
Leave it to the candidates30%31%
(VOL) Both2%4%
(VOL) Don’t know5%5%
(n)(809)(802)

* Asked about the first 2016 presidential debate.

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


TREND: REGISTERED
VOTERS
Late
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Very optimistic30%33%29%31%31%30%28%34%35%
Somewhat optimistic29%33%35%32%31%34%34%31%30%
Somewhat pessimistic17%16%20%18%19%17%17%15%18%
Very pessimistic17%11%12%13%15%12%12%12%12%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care3%3%3%3%2%3%4%3%3%
(VOL) Don’t know4%3%1%4%2%3%6%5%2%
(n)(809)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827)

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

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Late
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Very motivated86%85%83%86%
Somewhat motivated10%10%9%9%
Not that motivated4%5%7%5%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%0%0%
(n)(809)(758)(785)(733)

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

TREND: REGISTERED
 VOTERS
Late Sept.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
2016:Aug.
2016*
June
2015*
More enthusiastic46%49%40%40%28%26%23%30%39% 21%21%
Less enthusiastic12%12%17%15%24%21%17%17%21% 46%22%
About the same40%38%43%44%47%52%59%52%40% 31%57%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%1%0%1%1%1%1% 2%1%
(n)(809)(758)(785)(733)(742)(739)(743)(754)(827) (803)(829)

*Asked about the 2016 Presidential election.

21.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 VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
In person on Election Day46%
In person at an early voting location22%
By mail ballot30%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(809)

22.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
Late
Sept.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very confident24%22%21%
Somewhat confident36%39%42%
Not too confident27%24%24%
Not at all confident12%13%12%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%
(n)(809)(758)(785)

23.And how concerned are you about the possibility that election meddling could undermine the integrity of the results – very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not at all concerned?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Very concerned  42%37%
Somewhat concerned  38%35%
Not too concerned12%16%
Not at all concerned7%10%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(809)(785)

24.Donald Trump has not committed to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election, saying “we’re going to have to see what happens.” Does Trump’s statement on this bother you or not – would you say a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSLate Sept.
2020
Great deal41%
Some14%
Not much12%
Not at all32%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(809)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 24 to 27, 2020 with a national random sample of 809 registered voters, in English. This includes 320 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 489 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone.  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 3.5 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
36% Independent
35% Democrat
 
47% Male
53% Female
 
26% 18-34
23% 35-49
22% 50-64
28% 65+
 
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