Data Bites – brief posts about public opinion. What Independents think?

Several results from a recent YouGov Survey caught my eye. Thought you might find them interesting. I examined Independent voters, a large group that typically receives little media attention.  Independents are relatively neutral, not especially invested in one party or the other.  However, they often determine who wins elections. 

Vote intention and vote expectation of the Independent voter    

  • Vote Intention:  “Who will you vote for in November?” Biden 39%; Trump 39%; Undecided 16%.  That is a significant group of Independent undecideds.  Both campaigns will certainly target this group – especially in battleground states.
  • Likely Winner: “Which candidate do you think is most likely to win the Presidential election in November?”  Biden 30%; Trump 41%; Equally Likely 29%.  Among Independents, it’s just too close to call – nearly 30% believe both candidates can win.  Overall, the breakdown in the full sample of registered voters look similar:  Biden 39%; Trump 40%; Equally Likely 22%. 

Political science research demonstrates likely winner questions are actually better predictors of election outcomes than vote intention.  Pollsters should in fact consider voters’ expectations – what people think will happen, rather than how voters intend to vote as a way to forecast election outcomes.  So far, pollster have not adopted this approach.   (I hope to write a future post about this fascinating research).          

Protests around the Country

  • Protestors Improve or Destroy America:  48% of Independents believe protestors want to improve America; 52% believe protestors want to destroy America.    
  • Protests gone too far: “Do you think protests have gone too far?”  Yes 61%; No 28%; Not Sure 11%.      
  • Approach to get under things under control:  “Which of these approaches would help get things under control”   Law and order 39%; Bringing people together 61%.  

Responses to the first two questions suggest Independents may support Trump’s move to quell unrest by sending federal law enforcement to cities – Portland specifically.  However, the response to the final question indicates just the opposite – a hard nose law and order approach may backfire.  There are frequently mixed messages in public opinion surveys.    


  • Get vaccinated:  “If and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, will you get vaccinated?    Yes 35%; No 30%; Not Sure 35%.  Clearly, Dr. Fauci and the President’s Coronavirus Task Force have some work to do!
  • Send to school:  (among Independents with kids in K-12). “Will you send your children to in-person classes this fall, if available?  Yes 39%; No 37%; Not Sure 24%. 

The answers to the Covid questions demonstrate just how truly unsettled Independents are about the virus.  Sixty five percent of Independents either said no they would not take a vaccine or were hesitant about it.  In the full sample – everyone surveyed, 53% either said no or were hesitant.  Opinions may change. But, the large proportion of Americans that are vaccine hesitant underscores the major challenges ahead for federal, state, and local officials.          

Similarly, a consensus on schools seems unlikely.  Parents in particular face difficult choices. 

The news media will focus on federal and state level officials, but generally the President, Governors and congressional representatives will step aside and watch thousands of school districts navigate this complex situation.  Local discretion increasingly defines pandemic politics.  

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