8/28/2020 Peter Durantine

F&M Poll: Voting Interest Remains Strong; More Voters Worry About Economy

Headed into the last furlong of the presidential race, Democrat Joe Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump by 7 percentage points among Pennsylvania’s registered voters, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll. 

Biden’s 49 percent to 42 percent lead is slightly down from last month’s 50 percent to 41 percent poll results, but the number of voters concerned about the economy and their finances has increased since then from 12 percent to 22 percent, a possible election bellwether.

According to the poll, the number of voters who report they are financially “better off” has dropped from 33 percent in January to 23 percent, and 27 percent believe the United States is “headed in the right direction,” down from 38 percent at the beginning of the year.  

Nearly three-quarters, 72 percent, of the state’s voters say they are “very interested” in the 2020 elections, about the same level as last month. Sixty-two percent of voters expect to cast their ballot in person and 31 percent by mail. 

“We’re going to have a very heavy turnout,” F&M Poll Director Terry Madonna said. And since 52 percent of Democrats plan to vote by mail, as opposed to 10 percent of Republicans, “The biggest vote-by-mail rate will be in the cities,” he said.  

At 49 percent, more Republicans than independents, 24 percent, and Democrats, 9 percent, believe the country is on the right track. 

Forty-one percent of voters in Pennsylvania, about two in five, believe Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, consistent with last month’s poll. The president performs better than Biden on the economy, 48 percent to 44 percent, but on every other indicator Biden out performs the president.

Voters have less confidence in Trump than in Biden to: serve as commander in chief, 43 to 47 percent; change government policies to make their life better, 41 to 45 percent; handle foreign policy, 39 to 50 percent; understand the concerns of ordinary Americans, 38 to 50 percent; handle the pandemic, 30 to 49 percent; be honest and trustworthy, 29 to 49 percent; and have the character and good judgement need to be president, 33 to 52 percent. 

“The way those things are defined over the next two months will be the difference in who gets elected,” said Berwood Yost, the poll’s chief methodologist and co-director. 

At 31 percent, COVID-19 was listed as the most important problem facing the state of Pennsylvania among registered voters while about half, 46 percent, say the state is headed in the right direction. More than half the state’s registered voters, 54 percent, believe Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is doing an “excellent” or “good” job in office. 

The F&M Poll was conducted Aug. 17-23. It, like all surveys, is a snapshot of a specific point in time, not a forecast. All polls have variability; voters change their minds; and events after a survey can sometimes influence voters’ decisions, including whether to vote at all.

Conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at F&M, the poll reflects interviews with 681 Pennsylvania registered voters, including 321 Democrats, 272 Republicans and 88 independents. The sample error is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

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