New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Most Trump voters say they will not accept the 2020 results if Biden wins because of mail-in ballots

Andrew Romano
·West Coast Correspondent
·8 min read

Most Americans now believe that President Trump will not accept the results of November’s election if he loses to Joe Biden, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — and an even larger majority of Trump voters say they too will refuse to accept a narrow loss if mail-in ballots contribute to Biden’s victory.

In the midst of a pandemic that has seen many states expand their mail-in balloting systems to limit dangerous crowding on Election Day, the issue of postal voting took center stage Thursday when Trump escalated his months-long campaign to delegitimize the practice and possibly the election itself.

“2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” the president tweeted, even though there is no evidence that mail-in voting would lead to widespread voter fraud and several states already conduct elections entirely by mail. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

The results of the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey suggest that Trump’s efforts to sow doubt about the validity of mail-in voting may be starting to have their desired effect. Asked whether Trump would “accept the result” if he “loses in a close election” this November, 52 percent of Americans say no. Only 25 percent say yes.

Voters who support Trump, meanwhile, share their candidate’s unfounded suspicions about postal balloting, with a full 55 percent saying they would not “accept the result” if Biden wins “because of an advantage in mail-in votes.” Only 21 percent say they would accept a Biden victory under those circumstances.

The survey, it’s worth noting, was conducted July 28 to 30, mostly before Trump’s tweet about delaying the election. If anything, these gaps will likely widen in the wake of his incendiary suggestion.

Among Biden voters, a mere 26 percent say they would not accept the results if the tables were turned and Trump won because of mail-in votes. Forty-seven percent say they would accept the results.

It’s unclear what “not accepting” the result of a U.S. presidential election would look like in practice. But at a minimum it could involve large numbers of Americans viewing Biden as an illegitimate president — with Trump’s encouragement. The previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 54 percent of Trump voters said they are “very worried” about “fraudulent postal voting,” while 57 percent of Biden voters said they are “not worried” at all.

Trump’s preemptive push to invalidate a Biden win reflects a sobering reality for the president: If the election were held today, he would almost certainly lose. Biden leads Trump by 9 percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 40 percent; 94 percent of these voters say there is no chance they will change their mind. In the race for Congress, Democrats lead Republicans by 10 percentage points, 49 percent to 39 percent.

With coronavirus menacing nearly every corner of the country and protests raging in Portland, Ore., and elsewhere, more than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say things currently are out of control. This does not redound to Trump’s benefit: The number of Americans who say the incumbent president “is the source of the chaos” (46 percent) is 20 points higher than the number who say he “will protect us from the chaos” (26 percent).

A protester screams at federal officers after they used tear gas and less-lethal weapons to disperse a protest against racial injustice and police brutality in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in the early hours of July 30, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
A protester screams at federal officers after they used tear gas and "less-lethal" weapons to disperse a protest on Thursday in Portland, Ore. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The perception of Trump as a national leader who makes matters worse rather than better is pervasive — and no issue illustrates this more clearly than Portland.

The Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows signs of eroding support for the protests that have roiled the country since the May 25 killing of George Floyd. In early June, Americans were divided over whether the protesters should “stop protesting” (44 percent) or “keep protesting” (42 percent); today, 47 percent of Americans want them to stop, while only 36 percent want them to continue.

Black Lives Matter still receives a net favorable rating — 47 percent favorable versus 43 percent unfavorable — but it has contracted by 20 points since early June, when the split was 57 percent favorable to 33 percent unfavorable. Thirty-three percent of Americans now view the protests as “mostly violent acts,” up from 21 percent in early June. Fifty-seven percent say the protests “have gone too far.” And 59 percent say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about “a breakdown of law and order in American cities.”

In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly attempted to capitalize on these worries; more registered voters now believe, for instance, that the president sent federal agents to Portland “to bolster his ‘law and order’ reelection campaign” (49 percent) than believe he sent them to “keep anarchists from destroying federal buildings” (45 percent), his stated rationale.

The problem for Trump is that his show of force is not working, either practically or politically. Forty-five percent of Americans say it was not necessary for the administration to send federal agents to Portland; just 38 percent say it was necessary. Forty-eight percent say federal agents have increased tensions in Portland; just 14 percent say they have lessened tensions. Forty-two percent say local police are best suited to handle situations like Portland; just 33 percent would prefer federal agents. Forty-five percent say the administration should not send federal agents to deal with protests in other cities; just 36 percent would support sending federal agents elsewhere.

As a result, 44 percent say the country would become less safe if Trump wins reelection. Only 31 percent say the country would become safer. And more American people believe “bringing people together” will help get things under control (56 percent) than believe the same about “law and order” (44 percent).

Trump supporters wait for Lara Trump at Jimmy the Greeks restaurant in Old Orchard Beach on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, during a stop on the Women for Trump bus tour. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Trump supporters wait for Lara Trump in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on July 22 during a stop on the Women for Trump bus tour. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Coronavirus is a similar story. Trump’s approval rating for handling the pandemic now stands at its lowest level yet: 37 percent. Disapproval (57 percent) is at a high point. Despite the president’s recent return to the podium for regular COVID-19 briefings, the public has largely concluded that his disengaged, denialist approach to the virus is insufficient: 51 percent of Americans say Trump is not doing enough about the pandemic, compared with only 31 percent who say he is doing the right amount. (Six percent say the president is doing too much.) Just a quarter of the country (26 percent) approves of Trump promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine on Twitter; a majority (54 percent) disapproves.

Asked who deserves more blame for the continuing spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. — Trump or governors — a plurality (42 percent to 31 percent) blames Trump more. A majority blames Trump (51 percent) more than China (31 percent). Forty-nine percent of registered voters say the coronavirus situation would have been better if Biden were president; only 30 percent say it would have been worse. Going forward, a majority of voters (51 percent) say Biden would do a better job handling the pandemic than Trump (30 percent).

Polarization remains the defining force in U.S. politics, and Biden isn’t held in particularly high esteem. More Americans think the former vice president says what he wants people to hear (47 percent) than what he believes (34 percent), and fewer see him as honest and trustworthy (36 percent) than not (42 percent). Only 19 percent say Biden “cares a lot” about people like them.

Yet at the same time, 55 percent of Americans — a number that rises to 58 percent among registered voters — say “the only thing” Trump “cares about is himself.” Just 36 percent say the same about Biden. A wide majority of registered voters (56 percent) dislike Trump “somewhat” or “a lot.”

In easier times, voters may have put more stock in the one leadership quality a majority of them say Trump possesses: audacity (57 percent). But today, amid multiple crises, that turns out to be the leadership quality they value the least, with just 31 percent describing it as “very important” right now.

Instead, far more voters say taking responsibility (86 percent), competence (85 percent), honesty (84 percent) and empathy (64 percent) are very important. Trump trails Biden among registered voters in every category: by 12 points, 5 points, 11 points and 22 points, respectively.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,506 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between July 28-30, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education, as well as 2016 presidential vote, registration status, geographic region and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The margin of error is approximately 3.3 percent.

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