The Inside Track: Election 2020 August Briefing

Key highlights from August's Inside Track: Election 2020, a monthly webinar briefing from the Ipsos political polling team on data and trends shaping the 2020 election.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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The Inside Track: Election 2020

The Inside Track: Election 2020 presents monthly, in-depth analysis of the latest public opinion data on current trends and recent events influencing the political landscape. Read on below for highlights and key insights from this month’s webinar.

What you need to know

COVID-19 related deaths sit around 1,000 per day, and Americans’ adaptive behavior is settling in.

  • Most Americans now wear masks, though many are now choosing to visit friends and family up from a quarantine low this spring.

Heading into the election, no single-issue captures voters’ imagination.

  • The economy/jobs, healthcare and coronavirus remain important to voters, but what facet of the pandemic holds voters’ attention is more fractured.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead narrows slightly, though he still leads by a comfortable amount.

  • What the polls look like in August is not what they could end up being on Election Day.

The general election is revving up, and voting is on its way even as the President cast doubt on the electoral process.

  • President Trump floated the idea of delaying the election, but most Americans don’t support that and are clear eyed about the President’s intentions.

Deep Dive

COVID-19 in the U.S. – stable but bad.

COVID-19 daily number of infections and deaths


After a grueling month where the pandemic hit new highs across the country, new positive COVID-19 cases are trending down and deaths are stabilizing. Overall, not moving up is good news, but where the country has stalled is pretty dismal. Throughout the month of August, roughly 1,000 Americans died from the virus per day.

Despite a high death rate, Americans adaptive behavior has settled in as the country comes to terms with the “new normal”. Majorities are now wearing a mask as part of everyday, regular life, even while other types of behaviors that people didn’t do in in the spring, like visiting from friends, family and elderly relatives, are surging again.

Chaotic News Cycle Moves Away from COVID 24/7

COVID-19 has changed the country and the world forever. Yet, as the virus and the circumstance become normalized, it’s not the focal point of the 24-hour news cycle or America’s top issue.

The country is relatively divided on what the main issues are. Over the course of the pandemic, it has oscillated between the economy/jobs and healthcare. This month, 30% see the economy and jobs as the top concern facing the country, while 18% say healthcare is a main worry. One in ten are offering “coronavirus” as a response. That leaves a large minority seeing a non-COVID issue as their top concern.

A frenetic news cycle and a fractured media environment makes it, so no single issue remains top of mind for large swaths of the country.

Main issues facing the country


Biden’s ballot lead narrows slightly

Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains an eight-point lead ahead of the President among registered voters. That’s down about two-points from a few weeks ago but is still larger than the lead Clinton held over Trump at the same point in the race. Notably, Independent registered voters are breaking for Biden at the moment, and there are fewer undecided voters this cycle. In 2016, one in five voters were undecided. Just 12% of voters are unsure who to vote for this time around.

Still, a lot can happen before many of the votes are counted. Polls provide a snapshot of the race, and polling in August is not predictive of success. The number of undecided voters is still larger than Biden’s lead, meaning if a majority of them break for one candidate, especially in key swing states, they could move the election.

Ballot question


The show must go on: Election edition

How people feel about delaying the election


The President floated the idea that he would postpone the election in the fall, due to concerns about voter fraud from mail-in ballots. There is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.

Three out of four Americans don’t back pushing Election Day back. 41% of Americans see Trumps’ suggestion as a political maneuver to give himself a better chance to win the presidency. And, despite the President saying he wanted to delay the election to prevent fraud, only about one in five believe that’s what is actually driving his intention to move the election back.

President Trump recently took political attacks against the USPS, but most Americans see a well-functioning Postal Service as essential to voting this fall as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, many people use the USPS. 64% of people received a package from the Postal Service in the last week, while one in five used the Postal Service to get their medication.


For more information on these issues and our public polling work:

  • Listen to a 15-minute run-down of the highlights from our COVID-19 polling every week. Click here to register or hear a recording.
  • Check out Cliff’s Take, the latest and greatest updates in public opinion from Clifford Young, President of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.
  • Sign-up for our News Alerts, coming into your inbox every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with the freshest polling data and analysis. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs