Posted on October 20, 2020

Voters See the Nation as Fundamentally Divided

Steve Peoples and Hannah Fingerhut, Associated Press, October 16, 2020

The overwhelming majority of voters believe the nation is deeply divided over its most important values, and many have doubts about the health of the democracy itself. And supporters of President Donald Trump and Joe Biden alike think the opposing candidate will make things even worse if elected, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Overall, 85% of registered voters describe Americans as being greatly divided in their values, and only 15% say that democracy in the United States is working extremely or very well. The poll shows voters overall are especially pessimistic about the impact of Trump’s reelection: 65% say divisions would worsen if the Republican president were reelected, a number that includes a quarter of his supporters.

Thirty-five percent of voters believe Biden would divide the country further should he win the presidency. More, 47%, think the country would be unified if the Democrat were elected.


The poll offers a window into the depth of the division and chaos shaping the American electorate less than three weeks before Election Day. Voters are sharply divided over several major issues based on their partisan lenses, including their personal safety during the coronavirus pandemic, the value of diversity and the health of American democracy.


Fully 88% of Biden supporters and 80% of Trump supporters view Americans as greatly divided on important values. Supporters for both candidates think a win for the opposing side will worsen those divisions: 76% of Trump supporters say this of Biden, and 91% of Biden backers say this of Trump.

About half of all voters say that democracy in the United States is not working well, and about another third think it’s working only somewhat well. Roughly twice as many Biden supporters as Trump supporters have a pessimistic view of the health of democracy. Still, 3 in 10 Trump supporters say democracy isn’t working well. And at least 8 in 10 on both sides say the other candidate’s election would weaken democracy.


And as the nation struggles through intense clashes over civil rights, the poll highlights different views on the value of diversity.

Half of Trump supporters said that the nation’s diverse population “of many different races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds” makes the country stronger. About 3 in 10 Trump supporters said such diversity doesn’t strengthen or weaken the nation, while about 2 in 10 say it makes the country weaker.

Among Biden supporters, 75% believe that diversity makes the country stronger.

Overall, Biden has an advantage over Trump as the candidate trusted to handle the coronavirus pandemic (52% to 28%), race relations (53% to 28%) and Supreme Court nominations (45% to 34%). Biden and Trump are competitive on the economy, gaining the trust of 43% and 42%, respectively. But each camp overwhelmingly trusts its own candidate over the other to handle key issues.