Poll: Half of Pa. voters plan to vote against Trump in 2020

"It's a surprise given the economy. You would expect a sitting president to be in a much better position."

  • Rachel McDevitt/WITF

(Harrisburg) – In a new poll, half of Pennsylvania’s registered voters say they plan to vote against President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, no matter who his opponent is.

Just over a quarter of voters plan to vote for him, no matter the opponent, according to results from a poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College in partnership with PA Post.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents believe Trump is doing a good or excellent job as president. The president’s rating is similar to President Barack Obama’s rating in Pennsylvania at the same point in his presidency.

“It’s a surprise given the economy. You would expect a sitting president to be in a much better position.” said Berwood Yost, Director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College.

The survey was conducted by the college’s Center for Opinion Research between July 29-Aug. 4 of 627 respondents either on the phone or online, depending on their preference. Results were weighted to reflect the “known distribution” of Pennsylvanians’ age, gender, education and political party registration. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Trump narrowly won the commonwealth in 2016 and Pennsylvania is expected to be a key battleground state again in 2020.

Yost noted, to win again, Trump’s campaign will need to focus on some key demographic groups.

“He won white women in 2016. He’s going to need to win white women to win Pennsylvania again, and I think at the moment he’s having some difficulty with that group,” Yost said.

The survey shows both unity and divisions among Pennsylvania’s registered Democratic voters.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is the favorite among Democrats, with 28 percent saying they would vote for him if the election happened today.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden accompanied by his wife Jill waves during a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Saturday, May 18, 2019.

He polls even higher among self-described moderate Democrats, with nearly half their support.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came in at second place overall with 21 percent. She leads among self-described liberal Democrats; 31 percent say they support her.

Yost said Democrats rank honesty and integrity as top character traits they want in a presidential candidate.

“The thing that really stood out is half of them said the most important point of their vote is that they pick a candidate who can win,” he said.

Six in ten voters say it’s time for a change in 2020. Of those, 85 percent say they will vote against Donald Trump, no matter who ends up running against him.

Democrats in the poll say healthcare and insurance will be the most important issue when considering a presidential candidate, though Yost noted there’s not a direct connection between that issue and the favored candidates.

“I suggest that their vote choices at the moment are more about emotions and feelings than about logical, rational judgements about specific issues,” Yost said.

Only one in three registered voters say the country is “headed in the right direction.” In contrast, half say Pennsylvania is on the right track. Pollsters said that optimism “likely comes from a belief that the state is not confronting any single, intractable problem and that most voters feel positively about their personal finances.”

Taxes, education, government, and unemployment ranked among registered voters’ most important problems facing Pennsylvania, with each getting between 12 and 16 percent of responses.

“It’s not unusual in good economic times and a time where you don’t have wars or things like that, that the issues kind of are spread out all over the place,” Yost said.

When asked if Pennsylvania’s system of state and local taxes needs a fundamental overhaul, 61 percent of respondents said yes. Six in ten people surveyed also believe property taxes should be replaced by broader, state-wide taxes.

“It’s not necessarily an issue that people are talking about all the time because it’s one of many different things, but people haven’t been satisfied with the tax structure in this state for a long time,” Yost said.

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