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Axios-Ipsos poll: Democrats see more COVID risk from campaigning

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: 1,141 U.S. adults were surveyed between Aug. 14–17, 2020 with a ±3.1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Democrats are significantly more concerned than Republicans about the safety of in-person voting and traditional door-to-door campaigning amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: Joe Biden’s campaign, and Democrats nationwide, are eager to press the case that President Trump has mishandled the pandemic — but the pandemic is also causing Democratic voters to turn away from the tools and traditions that typically form the backbone of a successful campaign.


The big picture: Democrats are consistently more worried about the coronavirus than Republicans; they rate almost every specific activity or situation as riskier than Republicans do. And that very much includes politics, according to our latest survey.

By the numbers: 68% of Democrats said in-person, door-to-door political campaigning would carry a moderate or large risk to their health and safety. Just 46% of Republicans said the same.

  • Similarly, 63% of Democrats and 32% of Republicans said in-person voting would be at least moderately risky.

Between the lines: This is a vivid illustration of a challenge Democrats have faced since the spring. The poor response to the pandemic gives them a powerful campaign message, but has also taken away many of the tactical tools they’d normally use to press that advantage.

  • “Biden would not be credible if he was going out and doing MAGA-type rallies. His base would think he was being foolish,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. ”Trump can get away with that because his base doesn’t see the same sort of risk out there.”

Yes, but: It’s not an insurmountable challenge, Young notes. Even without rallies or a typical convention or the usual crowds and glad-handing of an election year, Biden still consistently polls several points ahead of Trump.

  • “They do have to message it correctly and respect their base’s relative level of fear by talking to people about how you campaign safely, how do you vote safely,” Young said.

What we’re watching: This concern about a campaign volunteer knocking on the door is consistent with another clear finding in the Axios/Ipsos survey: Regardless of partisanship, Americans see strangers as a much greater coronavirus threat than people they know.

  • 56% of all respondents said coming into a close contact with an essential worker would be a moderate or large risk to their health, and 59% said it’d be risky to come into contact with someone who travels for work.
  • By comparison, just 36% said it’d be at least moderately risky to see a family member they don’t live with, and just 38% said it would be risky to come in close contact with someone they saw regularly before the pandemic began.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted August 14-17 by Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,141 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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