University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll Finds More Than 80% of Likely U.S. Voters Decided on Presidential Choice Two Years Ago

Less than 1% of Voters Now Say They Remain Undecided
Tatishe Nteta
Tatishe Nteta
Raymond La Raja
Raymond La Raja
Jesse Rhodes
Jesse Rhodes

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll

AMHERST, Mass. – In a striking assessment of how Donald Trump’s politics have produced a deeply divergent assessment of his presidency, a new University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll of likely voters released today shows that more than 80% of the electorate had already decided which party’s presidential nominee they would support by the first half of Trump’s term.

The UMass Poll finds that only about 1% of voters say they remain undecided, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden holding a 53% to 44% lead over the Republican president.

Strongly held opinions about Trump are reflected in the timeframe of voters’ decision-making. When asked when they made up their mind about which party’s presidential nominee they would support, 61 percent say when Trump was elected and 23% say during the first half of Trump’s presidency. Only 10% say a few months ago and 5% say in just the last few weeks or days. A majority of those deciding early in Trump’s presidency say they made up their mind earlier than in previous presidential elections.

“Unlike the 2016 presidential election, in which a sizeable portion of voters waited until the waning days of the campaign to decide between Clinton and Trump, we find that voters have largely made up their minds and some having done so as far back as four years ago,” says Tatishe Nteta, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll and associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst. “In 2016, then candidate Donald Trump benefitted from a large portion of voters who made up their minds in the last days of the presidential election. This year, President Trump will not enjoy that luxury as only 1% of all voters have yet to make up their mind on the eve of the election.”

Among Democrats, 73% made up their minds when Trump was elected and another 15% during the first half of his term. A total of 52% of Republicans decided when Trump was elected and 32% in the following two years. Among independents, 40% decided when the president was elected, 30% in the next two years, 18% a few months ago and 10% in the last few weeks or days.

Views on Coronavirus, Racism, Other Issues

The UMass Amherst Poll finds 56% of voters consider the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. to be very serious, 24% somewhat serious, 13% not very serious, and 5% not serious at all.

Voters were asked how they thought the U.S. compares to other advanced countries when it comes to deaths relative to the population. Their assessment: 54%, more deaths than most other countries; 24%, about average; 15%, fewer deaths than most; 7%, don’t know. Among Democrats, 91% believe there are more deaths than most, and among Republicans only 16% believe there are more deaths than most.

“Trump’s seeming casualness about the coronavirus situation is definitely not how Americans are thinking about it,” says Ray La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “Less than 1 in 5 voters say the virus pandemic is not serious.”

In assessing racism, 37% strongly agree and 20% somewhat agree that white people in the U.S. have certain advantages because of the color of their skin. When asked whether racial problems in the U.S. are rare, isolated situations, only 8% strongly agree and 18% somewhat agree. Meanwhile, 56% strongly agree that they are angry that racism exists, and 21% somewhat agree.

Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of poll, says “Our poll shows that majorities of Americans understand just how severe a problem racism is in the U.S. While we live in a racially divided society, these figures suggest that a majority of Americans may be willing to take concrete steps to address racism in American society."

A series of questions looked at voters’ knowledge of QAnon conspiracy adherents. When asked how much they have heard or read about QAnon, 42% say little; 31% nothing at all; 21% a lot; and 7% don’t know. Of those responding a lot, 74% say it is a very bad thing for the country; 12% say it is a very good thing; 7% a somewhat good thing; 3% a somewhat bad thing; and 4% don’t know. Of those responding a little, 56% say it is a very bad thing; 12% a somewhat bad thing; 6% a somewhat good thing; 4% a very good thing; and 22% don’t know.

Nteta observes, “Who is QAnon? The majority of Americans have heard or read very little or nothing at all about the mysterious QAnon and the conspiracy surrounding this shadowy figure. Of those that have an understanding of this conspiracy, the overwhelming majority see QAnon as a very bad thing for this country.”

In regard to the Supreme Court, voters were asked if they support or oppose increasing the number of justices on the court. Their response: 29% strongly oppose and 12% opposed; 13% strongly support and 16% support; and 30% neither support or oppose.

La Raja says, “The saber rattling from some Democratic leaders about adding justices to the Supreme Court does not appear to have widespread support among Americans. Just under 30% support increasing the number of Justices – and only 13% say very strongly. Of particular note, Democratic voters are divided on this issue, with half supporting the expansion, and the other half not taking a position or opposed.”

Methodology

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll of 1,500 likely voters was conducted Oct. 20-27, 2020 by YouGov. YouGov interviewed 1,792 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1,667 registered voters and then subset on 1,500 likely voters to produce the final dataset. The likely voter subset included an oversample of 500 white voters with lower educational attainment.

The full set of survey starts were matched to a sampling frame of registered voters on gender, age, race, and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from the registered voter portion of the 2016 Current Population Survey sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacements (using the person weights on the public use file).

The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, and years of education. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.

The weights were then post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories), and education (4-categories). Finally, the weights were subset on likely voters and trimmed and re-centered to produce the final weight. The margin of error within this poll is 3.1%.

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll