HPU Poll: Registered Voters Compare Trump and Biden on Characteristics and Issues

Oct 06th, 2020

HPU Poll: Registered Voters Compare Trump and Biden on Characteristics and Issues

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 6, 2020 – A new High Point University Poll finds registered voters in North Carolina associate different characteristics with U.S. presidential candidates President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Poll respondents differed in who they trusted to do a better job handling a series of policy issues.

The HPU Poll asked registered voters in North Carolina to select which candidate best fit each item from a list of phrases. Significantly more registered voters say phrases like “understands the economy” (17% more), “takes action rather than just talking” (14% more), and “strong leader” (10% more) better fit Trump. These same voters also say that phrases like “has middle class values” (20% more), “connects well with ordinary people” (12% more), and “honest and truthful” (11% more) better fit Biden.

There were smaller possible differences on some other characteristics, including “smart” (a tie), “will do what’s right, not what’s popular” (3% advantage to Trump), “good judgement in a crisis” (4% advantage for Biden), “cares about people like me” (7% advantage for Biden), and “willing to work with the other party” (8% advantage for Biden).

“These splits over personal characteristics and competence in dealing with major issues will be important as people consider the 2020 election,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. “This election clearly shows the extent to which people see each candidate handling the spread of the coronavirus, reducing racial tensions, fighting terrorism or creating jobs.”

On policy issues, there are differences in how North Carolina registered voters see these candidates. Respondents to the poll were read a list of policies and asked who they thought would do the best job dealing with them — Trump or Biden. Trump has an advantage on issues such as “fighting terrorism” (18% more), “creating jobs” (15% more), “improving economic conditions” (11% more), “protecting the U.S. from foreign threats” (11% more) and “federal taxes” (8% more).

Biden has an advantage on issues such as “reducing racial tension” (24% more), “stopping the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus)” (14% more), “providing quality health care” (13% more), “promoting education” (11% more), “preserving Medicare” (11% more), and “protecting Social Security” (8% more).

There are smaller possible differences on some other characteristics, including “managing immigration” (3% advantage to Trump) and “supporting veterans” (5% advantage for Trump).

Respondents were asked to rank the most important problems for candidates to address. The largest percentages of respondents choose “reducing racial tension” (20%), “stopping the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus)” (17%), “improving economic conditions” (12%), “providing quality health care” (8%), and creating jobs” (8%).

Other important issues included “protecting the U.S. from foreign threats” (6%), “protecting Social Security” (6%), “promoting education” (4%), “managing immigration” (3%), “federal taxes” (3%), “supporting veterans” (2%), “preserving Medicare” (2%), and “fighting terrorism” (2%).

“As we get closer to the election, anything can change,” says McDonald. “However, Joe Biden appears to have a small advantage on the issues that are of most importance to these registered voters, which are reducing racial tensions and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”

NC registered voters – Candidate Personal Characteristics (September 2020)

Now I am going to read a list of phrases. Regardless of who you support, which of these two presidential candidates, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, do you think the phrase fits best? [ORDER OF PHRASES WAS RANDOMIZED]

  Biden Trump (Both) (Neither) (Don’t know/

Refused)

Difference (Trump – Biden)
Understands the economy 37% 54% 2% 6% 2% 17%
Takes action rather than just talking 37% 51% 2% 9% 1% 14%
Strong Leader 37% 47% 2% 12% 2% 10%
Will do what’s right, not what’s popular 42% 45% 1% 11% 2% 3%
Smart 42% 42% 7% 8% 1% 0%
Good judgement in a crisis 45% 41% 1% 9% 3% -4%
Cares about people like me 46% 39% 3% 10% 2% -7%
Willing to work with the other party 46% 38% 1% 15% 1% -8%
Honest and truthful 43% 32% 2% 21% 2% -11%
Connects well with ordinary people 47% 35% 3% 13% 2% -12%
Has middle class values 50% 30% 2% 14% 3% -20%

(Registered voter sample from NC voter file, surveyed Sept. 11-30, 2020, n = 401 and margin of sampling error is +/- 6%) 

NC registered voters – Candidate Issue Ownership (September 2020)

Now I am going to read another list of phrases. Regardless of who you support, which of these two presidential candidates, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, do you think would do the best job of handling each of these issues: [ORDER OF PHRASES WAS RANDOMIZED]

  Biden Trump (Don’t Know

/Refused)

Difference (Trump – Biden)
Fighting terrorism 37% 55% 8% 18%
Creating jobs 39% 54% 7% 15%
Improving economic conditions 41% 52% 7% 11%
Protecting the U.S. from foreign threats 41% 52% 7% 11%
Federal taxes 40% 48% 12% 8%
Supporting veterans 44% 49% 7% 5%
Managing immigration 45% 48% 8% 3%
Protecting Social Security 47% 39% 15% -8%
Preserving Medicare 50% 39% 11% -11%
Promoting education 51% 40% 9% -11%
Providing quality health care 50% 37% 13% -13%
Stopping the spread of COVID-19

(the coronavirus)

47% 33% 20% -14%
Reducing racial tension 54% 30% 16% -24%

(Registered voter sample from NC voter file, surveyed Sept. 11-30, 2020, n = 401 and margin of sampling error is +/- 6%)

NC registered voters – Most Important Problem (September 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 for presidential candidates to address. [ORDER OF PHRASES WAS RANDOMIZED]

Reducing racial tension 20%
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) 17%
Improving economic conditions 12%
Providing quality health care 8%
Creating Jobs 8%
Protecting the U.S. from foreign threats 6%
Protecting Social Security 6%
Promoting education 4%
Managing immigration 3%
Federal Taxes 3%
Supporting veterans 2%
Preserving Medicare 2%
Fighting terrorism 2%
(Don’t know/Refused) 8%

(Registered voter sample from NC voter file, surveyed Sept. 11-30, 2020, n = 401 and margin of sampling error is +/- 6%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers working remotely through the High Point University Survey Research Center, calling September 11-30, 2020. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 401 registered voters interviewed on landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center drew this sample from the voter file made public by the North Carolina State Board of Elections (https://www.ncsbe.gov/Public-Records-Data-Info/Election-Results-Data). The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.9 percentage points for registered voter respondents. Taking into account a design effect as a result of weighting, the adjusted margin of error is 6 percentage points. The data is weighted toward population (NC registered voters) estimates for age, gender, and race/ethnicity based on the parameters of the full voter file at the North Carolina State Board of Elections as well as education level based on US Census estimates. 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/2020/10/75memoA.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.