HPU Poll: COVID-19 and the Economy are the Most Important Problems for the Country

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In the post-election survey, less than half of N.C. residents say they have a lot of faith in the 2020 election results.


HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 11, 2020 – The High Point University Poll’s post-election survey asked which issues North Carolinians think are the most important problems facing the country. This year, two out of every five (41%) of North Carolinians say that COVID-19 is the most important problem facing the country today. This is twice as many responses as the second most important problem. 

One in five (20%) of the respondents say the economy is most important, followed by health care (9%) and racial tension (7%). Another 7% also said government ineffectiveness was the most important problem. 

When asked about the most important problems facing the state of North Carolina, more than two in five (44%) of these respondents say COVID-19. This large proportion is followed by the economy (16%), health care (8%), government effectiveness (7%) and education (6%).

Although national security was cited by only 5% of respondents as the most important national issue, a relatively large proportion of North Carolina residents (45%) say the U.S. should take an active part in world affairs compared to fewer than one-third (31%) who say the U.S. should stay out of world affairs. A majority (57%) of these same respondents say that the world is becoming more dangerous for the U.S. and the American people.

Furthermore, almost two thirds (65%) of North Carolinians say that the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the U.S. is greater and or the same as it was on Sept. 11, 2001. Only one in five (19%) say terrorists now had less capability to launch such an attack.

The post-election survey also finds North Carolinians are only somewhat confident in the 2020 election results and pessimistic about future relations between the major political parties. Only about two out of every five North Carolina residents (41%) say they have a lot of confidence that the 2020 election results accurately reflect the votes cast, while one-fifth of respondents (20%) say they have some confidence in the results. About three out of every 10 (29%) of residents say they have no confidence in the reported results.

North Carolinians were relatively satisfied with the choices of candidates they had in the 2020 presidential election. Two-thirds of respondents (65%) say they were very or somewhat satisfied with their choices while only about a quarter (26%) say they were not at all satisfied.

Many people have noted the negativity of recent elections, including this year’s election, and see the division between parties continuing into the future. A majority (61%) of North Carolinians say that compared to past elections, there was more mud-slinging and negative campaigning this year. Looking ahead, just less than a third (31%) of respondents say that they think the 2024 presidential election will have more negative campaigning, while only 22% percent say they think the next presidential election will be less negative.

There was not much more optimism about how people in the country as a whole feel about the prospects for Republicans and Democrats working together in Washington, D.C. A majority (58%) of North Carolinians say the American people are more divided after the 2020 elections.

More than a third (35%) of the poll’s respondents say they expect relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., to get worse, which is more than the percentage who say they expect relations to stay about the same (25%). A majority (52%) of respondents also expect Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., will spend more time working against each other rather than working together to get things done. 

All adults – Most Important Problem in the country (November 2020)

Now I am going to read a list of possible problems facing this country today. Please wait for me to read the entire list, then tell me which ONE of these problems is the MOST important facing the country today.

COVID-19, the coronavirus – 41%

The economy – 20%
Health care – 9%
Government ineffectiveness – 7%

Racial tension – 7%
National security – 5%

Education – 4%
The budget deficit – 3%

Immigration – 4%

Climate change – 2%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Most Important Problem in North Carolina (November 2020)

Now I am going to read a list of possible problems facing the state of North Carolina. Please wait for me to read the entire list, then tell me which ONE of these problems is the MOST important facing the state of North Carolina.

COVID-19, the coronavirus – 44%
The economy – 16%
Government ineffectiveness – 7%
Health care – 8%
Education – 6%

Racial tension – 6%

Taxes – 4%
Policing and law enforcement – 3%
Immigration – 2%
The size of the state budget – 1%

Transportation and infrastructure – 1%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Take an Active Part or Stay Out of Foreign Affairs (November 2020)

Now we would like to ask you some questions about foreign affairs issues. Do you think it will be best for the future of the country if we take an active part in world affairs, or if we stay out of world affairs?

Active part – 45%
Stay out – 31%
Unsure – 24%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Safer or More Dangerous World (November 2020)

Thinking about current U.S. relations with the rest of the world, would you say that the world is becoming safer or more dangerous for the U.S. and the American people?

Safer – 20%
More dangerous – 57%
Unsure – 24%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Risk of Major Terrorist Attack (November 2020)

Overall, do you think the ability of terrorists to launch another major attack on the U.S. is greater, the same, or less than it was at the time of September 11th terrorist attacks?

Greater – 31%
The same – 34%
Less – 19%
Unsure – 15%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Negativity in 2020 Campaign (November 2020)

Compared to past elections, would you say that this year there was MORE mud-slinging or negative campaigning or LESS mud-slinging or negative campaigning?

More negative campaigning – 61%

Less negative campaigning – 10%

About the same amount – 24%

Unsure – 6%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Negativity in 2024 Campaign (November 2020)

Do you think that the presidential election in 2024 will have MORE mud-slinging or negative campaigning than this election or will there be LESS mud-slinging and negative campaigning?

More negative campaigning – 31%

Less negative campaigning – 22%

About the same amount – 29%

Unsure – 18%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Americans More United or Divided (November 2020)

Now, thinking about the American people as a whole after the 2020 elections, do you think that people in the U.S. are more united, more divided, or not much different than usual?

More united – 16%

More divided – 58%

Not much different than usual – 17%

Unsure – 9%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Relations in Washington Better or Worse (November 2020)

Do you think relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington will get better in the coming year, get worse, or stay the same as they are now?

Get better – 29%

Get worse – 35%

Stay about the same – 25%

Unsure – 11%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Republicans and Democrats in Washington (November 2020)

Do you think Republicans and Democrats in Washington will spend more time next year working against each other or working together to get things done?

Working against each other – 52%

Working together – 26%

Unsure – 22%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Confidence in Election Results (November 2020)

How much confidence do you have that the election results this year accurately reflect the votes that were cast? Would you say you have a lot of confidence, some confidence, or no confidence that the reported results accurately reflect the votes that were cast?

A lot of confidence – 41%

Some confidence– 20%

No confidence – 29%

Unsure – 9%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

All adults – Satisfaction with 2020 Presidential Candidates (November 2020)

How satisfied were you with the choices of candidates you had in the 2020 presidential campaign, would you say very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, or not at all satisfied?

Very satisfied – 32%

Somewhat satisfied – 33%

Not at all satisfied – 26%

Unsure – 9%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Nov. 17 – 21, 2020 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 1000 adults interviewed online. The Survey Research Center contracted with Lucid (https://luc.id/)  to acquire this sample, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.1 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.06 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education level based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2020/12/77memoAX.pdf

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010. 

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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