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Republicans see U.S. as better off now than 4 years ago ahead of convention — Battleground Tracker poll

GOP voters see America better off, poll finds
Republicans see U.S. as better off now than 4 years ago ahead of convention, CBS News poll finds 01:56

It was mostly Democrats who watched last week's convention, and they liked what they saw. Now, as the Republicans begin theirs, we find a Republican Party whose voters not only hold a different view of things in America than Democrats do — but also one very different from most voters overall. And therein may lie Republicans' own challenge.

Republicans see an America — to borrow Ronald Reagan's famous test — better off today than it was four years ago, mainly, they say, because of their confidence in President Trump. 

For most Republicans, America is a nation where the economy is still fairly good, where the effort to handle the coronavirus is going at least somewhat well and the president is doing a very good job on it. For them, the virus elicits less concern in the first place. They believe the 170,000 fatalities is an overstated count and one which, for many, can so far be considered acceptable. And it is a nation where, for an overwhelming number of Republicans, there has been too much focus on racial discrimination of late.

And so as their convention begins, one test for the GOP appears whether they can persuade more Americans to join them in these assessments.


There is plenty of what's called negative partisanship at work here, as well. For four in 10 Republicans, their allegiance to the GOP is based not so much on liking all that it stands for, but mainly on disliking what Democrats stand for. And so that calculus, too, might well be something the GOP convention aims to make more widespread.


Another area where Republicans differ with voters overall is on views of the Black Lives Matter movement. Most voters agree with the ideas of the movement, while most Republicans do not. In fact, two-thirds strongly disagree. Eight in 10 Republicans think there has been too much attention recently on the issue of discrimination, compared to 44% of voters overall, and just 12% of Democrats. 


Like Democrats did for theirs, Republicans say they want their party's convention to be positive in tone. Nine in 10 want to hear good things about Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, rather than criticism of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 


Democrats react to their convention, Biden keeps same lead 

Meanwhile, the Democrats' convention — which was watched mostly by Democrats — appears to have solidified Biden's existing support, and those who watched said it made them feel more positively.


Biden entered with 82% of his backers "very strongly" behind him, and this went up to 87%. It also shifted some of his voters' rationale for backing him. Heading in, many of Biden's backers were with him predominantly to oppose the president, but today, relatively more Democrats are backing Biden because they're for Biden — that portion is up by nine points. 


Democrats came in at 66% "very" enthusiastic about voting and now they're at 69%, up but still lagging Republicans on the measure; Republicans' enthusiasm went up, too. For these measures, we surveyed respondents immediately following the close of the Democrats' convention, recontacting voters whom we'd previously interviewed.


The Electoral College will decide the presidency, but Biden keeps his overall national preference lead over Mr. Trump at 10 points, unchanged from last week, solidifying but not adding to that already-large edge. (For historical context, in an era of high partisanship, with mostly partisans tuning in for conventions, national poll swings in CBS News polls following Democratic conventions have been limited in the 21st century. Recent Democratic challengers have only gotten single-digit poll movement at best out of their conventions in 2016, 2008 and 2004.)


Many convention watchers say they did come away with a more positive view of Biden. This is especially the case among voters in his own party, but 45% independents who watched say they feel more positive about Biden now, outnumbering the 30% who say they feel more negative. 


The CBS News national survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,226 U.S. registered voters interviewed between August 19-21, 2020. The margin of error is ± 2.4 points. The CBS News national post-convention survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 957 U.S. registered voters re-interviewed after the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, between August 20-22, 2020, and who had been interviewed in CBS News polls prior to the convention. The margin of error is ± 3.6 points.


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