Voter Motivation in the 2020 Presidential Election
A common discussion in political circles (and around certain dinner tables) has been whether voters are moved more by policies they agree with or policies they oppose. In other words, are voters voting for candidates they like or against candidates they don’t? This discussion has become even more pronounced since President Trump’s election. No president in the modern polling era has had a larger partisan gap in his job approval ratings than President Trump.
Looking ahead to the presidential election in November, we wanted to explore voter motivation in the increasingly partisan atmosphere of U.S. politics. Are Republicans and Democrats voting for their candidate or are they voting against the other guy?
The results were mixed.
Of those likely to vote for Donald Trump, the vast majority say it is because they like him and/or because they support his policies.
When survey respondents were given a choice between voting for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, 38% said they would vote for Trump. Of the 38% who said they were voting for Trump, the vast majority (90%) said it is because they like him and his policies, or it is because they like his policies (but not necessarily him personally). Fewer than 10% of respondents likely to vote for Trump say they would do so because they “don’t like Biden and his policies.”
Likely Biden Voters Were Split
When those surveyed were given a choice between voting for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, 49% said they would vote for Biden. Among those Biden supporters, voter motivation is split. Nearly half (46%) said they would vote for Biden because they didn’t like Trump and his policies. That’s significantly more than the 9% of voters who said they would vote for Trump because they don’t like Biden and his policies.
Voters on policy and personality
There’s another noteworthy contrast between these Biden and Trump voters. Only 14% of Biden voters said they would vote for Biden because they like his policies even though they don’t necessarily like him personally; 36% said they would vote for Biden because they like both him and his policies.
The respondents who said they would vote for Trump were more divided: 45% of this group said they would vote for Trump because they like his policies, but not necessarily him personally. Interestingly, the same percentage (45%) of likely Trump voters said they would vote for Trump because they like him and they like his policies.
Democrat and Republican Responses to Polarization in Presidential Elections
In an era of heightened polarization, it seems that Democrats and Republicans are responding to Presidential elections in different ways. With eight months to go until the election, Republicans say they are more likely to vote for Trump than against Biden (even if they don’t like Trump personally). Democrats, on the other hand, are more divided, with a large bloc voting against Trump.
Of course, there’s been a lot of focus on Donald Trump over the past four to five years. Whether this disparity in voter motivation holds after voters are exposed to an onslaught of opposition research about Joe Biden will be an interesting topic for future research.
This data comes from a Meeting Street Insights online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted December 28 – 30, 2019.
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