University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll of Likely U.S. Voters Finds Biden Has Substantial Lead Over President Trump

Former VP Has 53-44 Edge; Majority of Voters Expect to Cast Ballots Early
Tatishe Nteta
Tatishe Nteta
Alex Theodoridis
Alex Theodoridis
Ray La Raja
Ray La Raja
Jesse Rhodes
Jesse Rhodes

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

AMHERST, Mass. – A new University of Massachusetts Amherst national poll of likely voters released today shows Democratic nominee Joe Biden holds a 9-point advantage over incumbent Donald Trump in the race for the presidency, garnering support across a wide range of demographics. Biden holds a 53% to 44% lead over the Republican president. Only about 1% of voters say they remain undecided. Meanwhile, early voting is being adopted by a significant majority of those planning to cast ballots.

Biden leads Trump among many voter profiles including men, 49% to 47%; women, 56% to 40%; Blacks, 86% to 12%; Latinos, 67% to 28%; and Asians, 59% to 29%. The president receives strong support from white working class voters, holding a 67% to 31% advantage over the former Democratic vice president. Trump also has a lead among all white voters, 51% to 45%.

“The coalition of women, young people, racial minorities, and highly educated voters that propelled Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012 is showing up for Biden in 2020,” says Tatishe Nteta, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll and associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst. “Biden has a stranglehold over these groups in his contest against President Trump, and this bodes well for his chances on Election Night.” In addition, Nteta says, Biden’s lead among men is notable. “For decades, men have consistently supported the Republican candidate for president. In 2016, candidate Trump soundly beat Hillary Clinton among men and rode this support all the way to the White House. If Biden wins the male vote next week, it is likely that Biden will become the nation’s 46th president.”

“Our results are consistent with other national polls showing a stable and substantial lead for Joe Biden,” says Alex Theodoridis, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “There is precious little promising news for President Trump and his supporters in these numbers. Trump only leads among a handful of demographic subsets (whites, those over 55 and voters who did not attend college). Even those advantages tend to be modest. Biden, on the other hand, has huge leads among women, young people, Black, Latino or Asian-American voters, those who pursued higher education, and even voters who describe themselves as ideologically moderate.”

A Surge in Early Voting

Early voting stands out as a major political development this fall. The UMass Amherst Poll found that 68% planned on voting before Election Day on Nov. 3. This includes vote by mail, 34%; in-person before Election Day, 24%; and vote as absentee (due to travel, sickness, etc.), 10%. The number planning to vote in person on Election Day stands at 32%. Among those most likely to vote on Election Day are Republicans, 46% (compared to Independents, 39%, and Democrats, 19%), and white working class voters, 44% (compared to 29% for all other voters). Among all respondents who indicated they were going to vote early, 70% had already cast their general election ballot.

“The Republican Party better pray for no snowstorms or hurricanes on Election Day,” says Ray La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “Close to 50% of Republican voters expect to vote in person on that day compared to just about 20% of Democrats, many of whom will have already voted.”

"A huge majority of voters, 68%, is voting in advance of Election Day, while only about a third intend to vote in person at the polls,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science and associate director of the poll. “Obviously, this reflects voters' uneasiness about voting in person during a pandemic, but it also reflects broader trends in voting before Election Day that are likely to accelerate over time. What this means is that citizens and government officials are going to have to get used to delays in the calling of elections, as well as to more extended vote counting periods.”

Economic Dissatisfaction

A majority of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the overall state of the country. When asked if the United States is better off today than it was four years ago, 59% respond no; 35% say yes; and 6% are not sure. When asked if they are individually better off today than four years ago, the response is split: 46% say yes, 46% say no, with 8% not sure.

Dissatisfaction with the nation’s economy is also considerable, with 38% not satisfied at all and 18% somewhat satisfied. Only 6% are extremely satisfied, 15% very satisfied, and 25% moderately satisfied. Respondents provided better marks for their own overall economic situation (32% moderately satisfied; 23% satisfied) and for their local community’s overall situation (40% moderately satisfied; 17% very satisfied).

Rhodes notes, “Likely voters are going into the election very dissatisfied with the status quo. Only a third (35 percent) believe the country is better off than it was four years ago, and less than half (46 percent) believe they are better off. And only small percentages are extremely or very satisfied with the nation's economic situation or their own situation. Widespread dissatisfaction with the nation's economic situation is a major source of strength for Biden.”

La Raja observes that the poll results reflect the strong public reactions to the Trump presidency. He says, “We traditionally ask Americans to describe the candidates in one word. We then combine them into a graphic to see which words stand out. I have never seen word clouds explode off the page like this. Trump’s word cloud is unreal in my experience. The stark words CORRUPT and INCOMPETENT compete angrily with GREAT and STRONG.”

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