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From now until Election Day, Yahoo News and YouGov will deliver weekly reports on how sentiment is shifting among key groups of voters in the final phase of the 2020 presidential campaign.
One of the main reasons Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election is that voters who disapproved of both Trump and his rival, Hillary Clinton, broke for Trump by about 18 percentage points.
“In the abstract, it’s something of a statistical quirk,” the Washington Post’s Philip Bump recently explained. “In practice, though, it might have given Trump the White House.”
In contrast, Trump’s party lost control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections due mainly to large numbers of voters who had cast ballots for Trump just two years earlier but switched sides and voted for Democrats — particularly college-educated white women.
Now, in a troubling sign for Trump’s 2020 chances, all three groups — voters who disapprove of both candidates; voters who cast ballots for different parties in 2016 and 2018; and college-educated white women — are moving in Joe Biden’s direction.
By partnering with YouGov to track the views of 13 key demographic groups (including suburban voters, Latino voters and white seniors) across nine important metrics (including vote intention, Trump approval and direction of the country), Yahoo News has identified a significant shift away from Trump over the last week — a period in which the president delivered a poorly received debate performance and was hospitalized with COVID-19.
Consider the following chart, which compares the results of the Sept. 25 Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 2,566 registered voters with the results of the Oct. 5 Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 3,970 U.S. registered voters:
In short order, Biden added 10 points to his lead among voters who dislike both candidates; 12 points to his lead among white college-educated women; and 16 points to his lead among 2016-2018 swing voters.
Among those who disapprove of both candidates, nearly all of Biden’s expanded margin came from voters abandoning Trump, whose support in this group fell by half (from 24 percent to 12 percent) between late September and early October. Where did Trump’s former supporters go? Half now say they will back third-party candidates instead; half say they’re undecided. This trend does not bode well for Trump.
Among college-educated white women, there were two shifts: one toward Biden (who gained 4 points) and a bigger one away from Trump (who lost 8).
Finally, nearly all of Biden’s expanded lead among 2016-2018 swing voters came from former undecideds suddenly breaking for the Democrat. In late September, 21 percent of these voters said they hadn’t settled on a candidate; 7 percent said they weren’t planning to vote. By early October, however, just 9 percent were still describing themselves as undecided and just 4 percent were still saying they expected to sit out the election. Remarkably, the whole of that shift went to Biden, whose support among 2016-2018 swing voters shot up by 16 points (from 40 percent to 56 percent) as a result. Trump’s, meanwhile, did not budge (31 percent).
Why such a rapid turn within these three key voting blocs? The data suggests that Biden himself had little to do with it. In fact, among 2016-2018 swing voters, the former vice president’s favorability actually fell from 68 percent before the debate to 52 percent after.
Instead, Trump’s hectoring debate performance and careless handling of the growing COVID-19 cluster in and around his White House may have turned these voters off. Among 2016-2018 swing voters, the president’s unfavorable rating has increased from 50 percent to 56 percent; among college-educated white women, it has climbed from 58 percent to 63 percent. Meanwhile, a full 57 percent of voters who dislike both candidates now say they disapprove of Trump’s handling of COVID-19 — up nearly 10 points since late September.
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