Battleground Poll: Opposition to Trump Solidifies and Voters See Economic Slippage

September 19, 2019


New polling from Priorities USA in the battleground states of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada shows that Donald Trump is in an extremely weak position in states he must carry to be re-elected. There has been a consistent downward trend for Trump in voters’ views on a number of key economic questions since our last poll in May – further undermining the power of his strongest selling point at a time when the risk of a recession is hanging over the national economic conversation.

In another negative trend for Trump, we find a hardening of opposition toward him, as voters move from just somewhat disapproving of Trump to strongly disapproving of him, and more voters say they will definitely vote against Trump than vote for him.  This is a sign of consolidation against him and helps explain why the Trump campaign is fixated on solidifying its base with messaging that clearly alienates voters the middle.

Democrats must continue to communicate to both mobilization and persuasion voters about Trump’s record on the economy in order to win, and the polling finds they are well positioned to do that. Democrats should continue to focus their paid and earned media messaging on economic issues to tie Trump to the growing negativity around specific economic indicators and keep the pressure on the voters who Trump is currently abandoning.

Increasing dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the economy

Among the four states we surveyed in both May and August (FL, MI, PA, and WI), we observed a small but consistent change in how the respondents viewed both the national economy as well as their personal finances.

Notably, in Wisconsin and Nevada, respondents report being just as unsatisfied with the economic conditions of the country today (39% in Nevada and 41% in Wisconsin) as satisfied (40% in Nevada and 39% in Wisconsin).

While all respondents are split on Trump’s handling of the economy (51% approve and 49% disapprove), only 41% say his handling of the economy is a reason to re-elect him.  And Trump is significantly underwater on his handling of the economy in Nevada (44% approve/56% disapprove) and across women in all of the states we surveyed (46% approve/54% disapprove).  By an 11-point margin, battleground state voters say Trump’s handling of wages and the cost of living is more of a reason to replace him rather than re-elect him. Moreover, there has been a decline in the share of voters who feel they personally are benefiting from his economic policies – down to just 34%.

In addition, our polling across the four states we surveyed in both May and August found a similar uptick of negativity around the respondents’ personal financial experiences.

Undecided voters also report feeling particularly downbeat about the economy. 35% report feeling unsatisfied about the economic conditions in the country, compared with 29% who are satisfied. Just 21% of undecided voters report that they’ve benefited from Trump’s economic policies, while 79% answer that they’ve benefited either a little or not at all. Similarly, a majority (54%) report that their income is falling behind the cost of living.

Trump Underwater on Many Key Issues  

Health care remains the top issue for voters across the battleground states, with gun violence, wages keeping up with the cost of living, and government corruption rounding out the top four. Health care holds a significant lead, as it did in the lead-up to the 2018 elections.

The rise of gun violence as a top issue is notable, but given the proximity to recent high-profile mass shootings, this should continue to be checked moving forward.

Majorities of voters say that Trump’s handling of race relations, climate change, health care, and gun violence are more of a reason to elect someone else, rather than re-elect Trump. This trend in opposing Trump on these issues is consistent among both undecided voters and non-college white voters: 64% of undecided voters and, counter to conventional wisdom, 47% of non-college whites said that Trump’s handling of race relations was more of a reason to elect someone else.

When asked about a wide range of issues and whether they were more of a reason to re-elect Trump or elect someone else with a different approach, race relations was the worst issue for the president, with 55% of voters citing it as a reason to elect someone else. This includes 50% of non-college white women. The data is very clear that Trump’s racist actions and comments have hurt him with a broad swath of the electorate, especially among suburban women, and will continue to do so. 

Health care continues to be widely viewed as one of the top reasons to elect someone other than Trump. Democrats should continue to force the issue into both paid and earned media. While the economy in general is one of Trump’s best issues among those tested, it only comes to a draw while Democrats have an advantage on issues like taxes, trade, and wages. This should be very concerning for the Trump campaign.

 Case Study: Non-College White Women

A key component of Trump’s victory in 2016 was winning white women. That was largely driven by his margins among non-college white women.  Our polling shows that Trump is in significant jeopardy of losing his advantage with this group. We believe Trump won non-college white women across these five states by about 61% to 39% in 2016. However, Trump is underwater with this group on his favorability, with 48% feeling unfavorably to him (39% very unfavorable), and 44% viewing him favorably.
Non-college white women represent a key persuasion group for both Trump and Democrats and are a group that Trump must win by a decent margin in order to be re-elected. 

This group is particularly downbeat about the direction of the country under Trump, as well as their own personal finances. 50% of white women without a college degree believe that things in the country have changed for the worse, compared to 40% for their male counterparts. 61% say that their income is falling behind the cost of living, with just 4% saying they are making enough to get ahead. More than half say that the cost of health care, cost of education, and wages and incomes keeping up with the cost of living have gotten worse, not better, and 48% say that the economic situation for the middle class and average working families has gotten worse.

As they think about the issues they care about when voting, 53% say health care is one of their most important issues, followed by wages not keeping up with the cost of living (37%) and gun violence (33%). And, when these women think about these issues in relation to the 2020 race, they are more likely to view them as a vulnerability for Trump. Nearly half (46%) of non-college white women say that Trump’s handling of health care is a reason to elect someone else, with another 35% saying it’s a reason to re-elect Trump. That finding is consistent with both wages (43% say it’s a reason to elect someone else versus 37% saying it’s a reason to re-elect Trump) and gun violence (43% elect someone else/ 34% re-elect Trump).

About This Poll

Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll online August 13-25, 2019, with a total sample of 3,014 voters, with representative subsamples of 805 voters in Florida, 606 voters in Pennsylvania, 603 voters in Michigan, 500 voters in Wisconsin, and 500 voters in Nevada. The states were weighted together based on the number of electoral votes each one represents.  The distribution of voters across demographic, geographic, and political factors reflect the expected composition of the 2020 electorate in each state.