In an election held during a pandemic, partisan voters in two key battlegrounds continue to divide over casting ballots by mail versus in person. In Pennsylvania, where more than 2 million have requested mail ballots, most Democrats say they’ll vote by mail, while Republicans overwhelmingly say they’ll vote in person. And in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, President Trump is the preferred candidate among those planning to vote in person, while Joe Biden is the overwhelming preference among those who plan to vote by mail. This polling was completed before the president’s hospitalization on Friday.
Overall, voters’ preferences in these two important states remain much as they were this summer. Voters in Ohio show an even preference between Mr. Trump and Biden, and Pennsylvania’s voters continue to give Biden a lead over Mr. Trump, by seven points.
Voters in both states also largely seem decided now, and say they have firmed up their support. More now than this summer say they are very strongly behind their choice, particularly those for Biden in Pennsylvania.
Most who plan to vote in person say they expect the process will be very easy to vote this year, and most who plan to vote by mail expect it to be somewhat — if not very — easy. But views are only mixed among all partisans on whether ballots will be accurately recorded and counted. Fewer than half are “very” confident in that count, and nearly as many are “somewhat” confident.
While many of those voting in person say they are willing to wait as long as it takes to cast their vote, a significant percentage are not. In Pennsylvania, 33% of Biden voters and 37% of Trump voters say they would not be willing to wait more than an hour. Should polling places be more limited come November, those could be important numbers to remember.
The first presidential debate does not appear to have moved the contests in these states in any substantial way from the summer, perhaps not surprising since so many voters have been locked in.
But more voters in these states describe Biden as having the right temperament than describe Mr. Trump that way. However, for some of the president’s supporters, this quality may not be as connected to their vote. In Pennsylvania, many Republicans who don’t describe the president this way are backing him over Biden by large margins.
Handling of the economy continues to be an advantage for the president, particularly in Ohio. More voters see him as better able than Biden to handle it and as the candidate who would do more to protect manufacturing jobs.
Voters in both states have largely positive views of their state’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, particularly in Ohio, where positive assessment has risen from 54% in July to 69% today. Despite this improvement, the president gets more blame than credit when it comes to his administration’s coronavirus policies.
The economy continues to be the top factor in voters’ minds, but other issues are major factors as well including health care and the coronavirus. Six in 10 Ohio voters say the coronavirus outbreak continues to be a major factor in their vote (unchanged from July), and two-thirds of voters in Ohio continue to express at least some concern that they or someone in their household will contract the virus, including half of Republicans.
Compared to the summer, Biden has made gains on views of him personally. Most voters in both states now say they like the way Biden handles himself personally. In July, most in Ohio did not, and voters were more split in Pennsylvania in August. Mr. Trump is still mostly negative on this measure, with about two thirds of voters in both states saying they dislike how he handles himself personally.
Support from women, particularly those with college degrees, is bolstering Biden in Pennsylvania and keeping him competitive in Ohio. White voters without college degrees continue to support the president in large numbers, and he is also the preference of male voters in both states.
These surveys were conducted on behalf of CBS News by YouGov between September 30-October 2, 2020. They are based on representative samples of 1,128 registered voters in Ohio and 1,202 in Pennsylvania. Margins of error for registered voters are ±3.7 points in Ohio and ±3.1 points in Pennsylvania.