The Inside Track: Election 2020 May Briefing

Key highlights from May'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

While all other indices in our Consumer Confidence Index dropped by six to eight points over the past month, expectations for the future has barely budged, falling only a half a point.

  • Despite the unemployment rate surpassing the high watermark from the Great Recession, the Consumer Confidence Index remains higher than at its lowest point during the recession about a decade ago.

President Trump’s approval numbers remain flat, with his performance on COVID-19 tracking with his overall approval.

  • How he handles and frames the dual problem of the tanked economy and the public health crisis will determine how a rattled public receives his reelection bid.

The general election is revving up, and voters of both parties are looking for a candidate who has a robust plan to help the nation recover from the coronavirus.

  • Bipartisanship breaks apart from there, with Democrats valuing a candidate who can restore trust in American government and Republicans looking for someone who is strong on the economy and job creation.

Deep Dive

Vital Statistics: Americans Still Optimistic About the Future of the Economy

Despite the unemployment rate hitting levels not seen since the Great Depression, U.S. consumer sentiment has rebounded slightly.

These numbers are buoyed by people’s relatively optimistic expectations for the future. While views on the current economy, jobs, and investments dropped precipitously over the past two months, people’s expectations for the future have shifted less, indicating that some of the public still views the economic pain as temporary. Most experts disagree with this, setting up an important point of tension as the full scope of the economic damage comes into focus.  

Coronavirus expectations

Perceptions of President Trump: Will the President Be Held Accountable for the Economy?

President Trump experienced a modest “rally around the flag” effect during the onset of this crisis that has since leveled off. Now, the president’s approval ratings remain roughly where they were before the pandemic came to the fore.

About two months ago, the public’s perception of how the president responded to the pandemic overperformed his approval numbers. Now, his performance in dealing with the crisis is moving in lockstep with his approval numbers, indicating that partisanship has bled into the public’s view of his response to coronavirus.

Normally, a president’s approval ratings are closely linked with the state of the economy. Right now, President Trump’s approval numbers on the economy—previously a strong point for him—have slightly softened since mid-April. The country is still in the early days of the economic crisis, making this a space to watch during a reelection year.

 Trump's approval rating

The General Election: COVID-19 Response Vital in General Election

As the general election comes into focus, Americans are looking for a candidate who can provide a roadmap for how the nation will recover from coronavirus.  There is bipartisan consensus on the importance of this issue.

Bipartisanship breaks down from there. For Democrats, electing someone who can restore trust in American government is another top priority, while Republicans value a candidate who is strong on the economy and job creation. Independents mirror Democrats on this question, prioritizing a candidate who can restore trust in American government ahead of one who is strong of the economy and job creation.

When it comes to how to each candidate performs on these issues, Trump and Biden break dead even on who has a more robust plan to recover from coronavirus Biden has a slight edge over Trump on his ability to restore trust in American government, the other issue most important to Democrats, while the president just beats out Biden when it comes to being strong on the economy and job creation, which is more important among Republicans. With less than six months to go, a lot can change between now and November.

Voter's top issue priority


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