Visualizing the elections: a deeper look at polls data

This is not an attempt to predict the outcome of the elections the world’s eyes are on right now. I have been proven wrong before and abandoned this endeavor since. But I could not walk by publicly available data from a national poll and not mine it for more insights. The reports in the media are mostly around the overall candidate support, but there is much more.

Where is the data from? This data set is coming from a poll conducted on Oct. 6-9, 2020 by Washington Post-ABC News. The poll was conducted multiple times before an election and some data is available for multiple election years. This sample has ~1K responses collected by phone (cellphone and landline) from a representative sample of the US population.

Surprisingly, voters are not much more engaged than usual

By many measures these are high stake elections and one would expect there to be a lot more engagement from the voters. However, when asked about how closely they are following the elections, voters this year responded very similarly to the 2012 election and only slightly higher than the 2012 and 2008 elections. About ~65% said they follow closely and another 25% (the lowest % for this segment out of all years) said they follow somewhat closely. From this graph you can see that the most engaged year was actually 2016. Perhaps we are just all too tired of 2020.

At least we expect more people to vote, right? Not according to this poll. About as many people stated they are certain or will probably vote as in the previous three elections. I’m hoping reality will prove this poll wrong next week.

Voters care most about the economy and the pandemic and their trust that POTUS can handle these well is dwindling overtime

Less surprises are awaiting when we look at the topics of highest concern to the voters. The top three concerns were the economy, coronavirus outbreak and the equal treatment of racial groups. Healthcare comes as a close forth.

TopicsPercent of respondents
Equal treatment of racial groups14%
Health care13%
Supreme court appointments10%
Crime & safety8%

When asked about which candidate they trust more to handle the top two concerns – the economy and the coronavirus – a clear trend emerges over time. Biden starts below Trump in March on both and increases overtime, getting ahead Trump on coronavirus by 7 percent points. Trump has the opposite trajectory, trending down overtime on both topics.

If you are a young, urban, college-educated, atheist woman of color, chances are high you’ll be voting for Biden

The poll collected various demographic factors and we can slice the support for the two candidates by these. Overall Biden has the higher share of the votes, with 55% saying they’d vote for him over 43% for Trump.

Having the majority of the democrats voting for Biden and republicans for Trump is of course the world order, but interestingly, only 4% of democrats say they would vote for Trump, while 9% (double) of republicans say they would vote for Biden. Females also show a greater support for Biden (60%) while males are evenly split.

Voters younger than 40 support Biden more (60%), alongside college graduates (67%). Whites lean slightly towards Trump overall (50% vs 48%) while non-whites have a strong leaning towards Biden (75%).

People not identifying with any religion also show a strong leaning towards Biden (76%) while white evangelical protestants lean as strongly in the other direction (79% for Trump). Rural voters prefer Trump as well (59%) and urban voters prefer Biden (67%).

Voters enthusiasm about their candidate suggests some are voting against not for

One last interesting bit that illustrates the current election well is the responses on enthusiasm towards the candidates from those who said they will vote for them. Biden has the bigger share of the votes in this poll (55% vs 43% for Trump), and 9% of republicans said they’ll vote for Biden, but the strength of this support adds depth to this picture. Seventy one percent of Trump supporters said they are very enthusiastic about him, a huge increase (+27 pp) since last elections. While only 52% of Biden voters say they are enthusiastic about him with 34% more somewhat enthusiastic. All this taken together is an indication that 1) Trump lost some of the voters that were lukewarm about supporting him last elections (so the remaining ones are the more devoted) and 2) some voters are voting against Trump rather than for Biden (the 9% republicans maybe?).

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