Half of Swing-State Voters Fear Violence Around US Election

(Bloomberg) -- Half of swing-state voters say they’re worried about violence surrounding the US presidential election, suggesting misgivings about how an acrimonious race and its results will be received by a highly polarized electorate.

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Roughly equal shares of Democrats and Republicans hold that fear, and it is even more common among independents, a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll found. That result makes for a backdrop of apprehension as President Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump gear up to spar in a debate in June and put on shows of pageantry before thousands of people at their nominating conventions this summer.

With those events, the candidates will try to improve their standing in what the monthly tracking poll has consistently shown is a close contest. In May, Trump was ahead of Biden by 4 percentage points across seven key swing states.

The unease around the election was not limited to concerns about violence. Six in 10 swing-state voters worried about misinformation, while 46% expressed similar concerns about foreign interference. Smaller numbers of voters said they had little or no confidence that the election would be fair, legitimate and free from fraud, but the share that held those concerns has grown since March.

US voters have seen activism translate into unrest, including with a wave of protests during the 2020 campaign cycle after the police killing of George Floyd, and the more recent demonstrations on college campuses over the Israel-Hamas war.

Separately, anger about Biden’s victory four years ago culminated in a riot on Jan. 6, 2021, to stop Congress from certifying the election.

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Underlying voters’ concerns is a deep partisanship that has colored how Democrats and Republicans view everything from the trajectory of the economy to the importance of issues like immigration and abortion. Nine in 10 Republican swing-state voters say the national economy was better off under Trump, but only 13% of Democratic voters hold that view.

Across the seven states, the Bloomberg poll of 4,962 registered voters has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point and was conducted May 7-13.

In the “Blue Wall” battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Biden and Trump are separated by no more than 2 percentage points. Biden can win the election — or at the very least, force an Electoral College tie — with a sweep of those states and victories in those considered safe turf for Democrats.

Biden also gained ground from April in each of the competitive Sun Belt states. He now trails Trump by 7 points in North Carolina, 5 points in Arizona, 3 in Georgia and is even in Nevada.

Nevada, however, has the largest margin of error of the seven states, and the result is a departure from other recent polls. The Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll showed Trump leading there by 8 points only a month ago, and a New York Times/Siena College poll released in May had Trump ahead in Nevada by 12 points.

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May’s polling comes as Trump has spent much of the past month in a Lower Manhattan courtroom, defending himself against criminal charges that he falsified business records in order to conceal hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.

Trump’s legal troubles have prompted the Biden campaign to adopt a split-screen strategy, with strategists highlighting Biden's busy travel schedule to battleground states and seeking to contrast it with Trump's situation.

"While Trump is stuck in New York or hiding in Mar-a-Lago, we're expanding and deepening our reach in every critical battleground community," Biden Battleground States Director Dan Kanninen told reporters this month.

One metric suggests that the strategy is working: Half of respondents reported hearing mostly negative news about Biden recently. For Trump, it was 65% — a 7-point increase in reported negative news since March, as he was clinching the Republican nomination.

More than 1,000 respondents mentioned or alluded to Trump’s court cases in response to an open-ended question about what news they had heard about the candidate, an indication that details of the case are percolating through the swing-state electorate despite the lack of televised testimony.

Fewer respondents say Biden is ‘doing the right amount’ to help Israel.

Biden faces a different set of challenges, including renewed questions about his support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. Biden lobbied Congress for $26 billion in aid for Israel, only to delay a shipment of bombs over worries that they could lead to unacceptable civilian casualties.

Several months into an Israeli counteroffensive that followed attacks last October by Hamas, recognized as a terrorist group by the US and the EU, public opinion in the swing states has only become more polarized. Compared to the November poll, fewer respondents say Biden is doing “the right amount” to help Israel, with increasing numbers saying he’s doing either too much or too little.

The intense feelings in the US around the conflict have been especially visible on college campuses, where protests disrupted the end of the spring semester and some commencement ceremonies.

Half of swing-state voters oppose the pro-Palestinian campus protests, while only 28% support them. The demonstrations received some of the strongest support from young voters, Democratic men and self-described liberals. Some 65% of Trump supporters oppose the protests.

Among Trump’s potential vice presidential picks, Ben Carson has the highest favorability rating with Republican voters.

Trump has yet to make one of the most high-profile decisions of his third run for the White House: Who will join him on the ticket as his vice presidential candidate.

The short-list of contenders with the highest approval among Republican voters are also those with the highest name recognition — including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

Several candidates believed to be on Trump’s list are relative unknowns. More than half of Republican voters say they’ve never heard of Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, or New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.

The low awareness indicates that “some of the people to be considered are yet to be defined," said Christopher Devine, a political scientist at the University of Dayton and co-author of author of a book about the influence of vice presidential candidates on elections.

"That could give an opportunity for that person to tell their own story,” Devine said. “But there's also a lot of room for the opposition to paint them negatively and make them a liability for the Trump campaign.”

It likely won’t take long for whomever is selected to make an impression.

“When he names his running mate, that person becomes the second-most famous person in the Republican Party,” said Eli Yokley, US politics analyst for Morning Consult.

Trump has held what are widely seen as open auditions for his running mate, with candidates turning up at his Palm Beach home and in the Manhattan courtroom in a show of loyalty to the former president. He's said he'll make his decision during or just before the July nominating convention, and suggested Monday that there could be as many as 15 people under consideration.


The Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll surveyed 4,962 registered voters in seven swing states: 795 registered voters in Arizona, 795 in Georgia, 704 in Michigan, 459 in Nevada, 704 in North Carolina, 812 in Pennsylvania and 693 in Wisconsin. The surveys were conducted online from May 7-13. The aggregated data across the seven swing states were weighted to approximate a target sample of swing-state registered voters based on gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, home ownership, 2020 presidential vote and state. State-level data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters in the respective state based on gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, home ownership, and 2020 presidential vote. The statistical margin of error is plus or minus 1 percentage point across the seven states; 3 percentage points in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania; 4 percentage points in Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, and 5 percentage points in Nevada.

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