Ahead of the Presidential election in November, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted a series of polls in a number of key swing states. Back in July, our research indicated that Democratic candidates for US Senate seats and state governorships enjoyed a substantial lead in Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina over the Republican candidates. Our August polls show similarly substantial leads.
Indeed, a month onwards in Arizona, we found that the Democratic nominee for the US Senate Mark Kelly continues to have a significant 19% lead over incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally.
McSally’s unpopularity may be a result of the low approval ratings of Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey: a majority (51%) of respondents disapprove of Governor Ducey’s handling of the pandemic, compared to roughly one third (32%) who approve.
In July, 54% of Arizona respondents disapproved of Ducey’s handling of the crisis and 26% approved. Our research suggests that the Governor’s approval ratings are somewhat stabilizing around those figures following a significant decline in approval compared to June, when only 37% of respondents disapproved of his handling.
Respondents who intend to vote for Biden on November 3rd are significantly more likely to disapprove of Governor Ducey’s handling of the crisis (70%) than those who intend on voting for President Trump (28%). It follows from the Governor’s recent visit to the President on August 5th, when the White House praised Arizona’s response to the crisis as a national model. Indeed, back in May, Governor Ducey lifted lockdown restrictions in the State on the basis that the rise in the number of cases was a result of an increase in testing.
Governor Ducey’s approval ratings mirror those of the Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. We found that 48% of Florida respondents disapprove of Governor DeSantis’ handling of the crisis, compared to 35% who approve.
Our results suggest that Governor DeSantis’ approval ratings are also stabilizing: in July, 45% of Floridians disapproved of his handling of the crisis against 36% who approved. In June, by contrast, our research indicated that only 38% of respondents disapproved of his handling and 42% approved.
Almost three-quarters (74%) of those who intend on voting for Biden in November disapprove of the Governor’s handling of the pandemic, against only 19% of those who intend on voting for Donald Trump, highlighting a clear partisan divide. Florida’s Governor has often been described as a “mini-Trump” for his response to the crisis, and supported the reopening of Disney World in Orlando. At the same time, the state recently reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since June.
Other governors, however, enjoy relatively high approval ratings. For instance, a large majority (61%) of respondents in Michigan approve of the State’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer handling of the pandemic and 26% disapprove.
This figure parallels our findings in July, when 60% of respondents approved of her handling of the pandemic and 27% disapproved.
Interestingly, however, we found that the incumbent Democratic US Senator for Michigan, Gary Peters, has seen a decline in his voting intention from July to August. While in July Peters led against Republican candidate John James by seventeen points, the gap has fallen to nine points a month later.
Throughout the campaign, James has strived to balance his conservatism while creating some distance with Donald Trump, who won the State by a margin of only 0.3 percentage points in 2016. James’ approach appears to be translating into a successful narrowing of the gap that separates him from the incumbent Democratic Senator.
Moreover, Democratic Governors in Wisconsin and North Carolina enjoy similar approval ratings, with 52% of respondents in each of the states approving of Governor Tony Evers and Governor Roy Cooper respectively. Meanwhile, only 28% of respondents in Wisconsin disapprove of Governor Evers’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, while just 27% of those in North Carolina disapprove of Governor Cooper.
In North Carolina, our research indicates that Governor Cooper’s approval ratings have remained consistent – a majority (50%) approved of his handling of the pandemic in June and July. As a likely result of his high approval ratings, we found that Cooper enjoys a significant 13-point lead over Republican contender Dan Forest in November’s Governor election in the State. Cooper’s lead is similar to the 14% lead that he enjoyed in our July poll. Furthermore, the incumbent Governor is also making inroads with likely Trump voters: our poll found that 14% of those who intend to vote for Trump in North Carolina also intend to vote for Cooper to be reelected as a Democratic Governor of North Carolina.
In the US Senate race in North Carolina, Democratic contender Cal Cunningham continues to enjoy a 9-point lead over incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis, likely also benefitting from the popularity of Governor Cooper in North Carolina.
Finally, in Pennsylvania we found that 49% of respondents approve of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, whereas 31% disapprove. Last month, Governor Wolf withheld Covid-19 funding from Lebanon County, where Republican leaders voted to lift pandemic restrictions.
Altogether, our research confirms a general trend that began in July: in swing states, Democratic governors are currently receiving higher levels of approval than Republican governors, and this support is having an impact on US Senate and state governor races in the swing states. Indeed, our findings suggest that coronavirus policies pushed by Democrats are perceived more favorably by the population than those favored by Republicans, which could have significant consequences come November.