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SurveyMonkey poll: Suburbs and the safety wedge

Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 35,732 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, 2020 with ±1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

White suburbanites who feel "very safe" in their communities are more likely to favor Joe Biden, while those who feel only somewhat safe move toward President Trump, according to new SurveyMonkey polling for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings help illuminate how Trump is using safety as a wedge issue ahead of the election — and why he's fanning fears of violent protests bleeding into the suburbs.


  • "What jumps out at me from the data is a clear connection between anxiety around security and support for Trump over Biden," says SurveyMonkey chief research officer Jon Cohen.

By the numbers: White suburban women who feel "very safe" prefer Biden by about a 20 percentage-point margin, the survey finds. Biden's lead disappears among white suburban women who say they feel only "somewhat safe."

  • The very small subgroup of white suburban women who say they feel not so safe or not at all safe prefer Trump by 10 percentage points.
  • Trump leads with white suburban men across each of those groups — but the margin jumps dramatically, from a five-point lead over Biden with those men who feel "very safe" in their communities, to a 24-point lead for Trump with those who feel only "somewhat safe."

Between the lines: A closer examination of the data suggests that Trump's fear approach may have an impact only in truly close swing-state suburbs. And it's more effective in shoring up sagging Republican support than in converting Democrats or independents or convincing either to stay home.

  • That's partly because wide majorities ofAmericans across gender, racial, ethnic and metropolitan lines say they do feel safe in their communities.
  • 55% of suburban white women say they feel "very safe," while 39% say they feel "somewhat safe." Just 5% combined say they feel "not so safe" or "not safe at all."
  • White suburban men feel even safer than white suburban women.
Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 35,732 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, 2020 with ±1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Be smart: Black Americans feel less safe than white Americans, whether in urban, suburban or rural areas, the survey finds.

  • Nearly one in 10 Black suburbanites says they don't feel safe in their community; that roughly doubled for Black Americans living in cities or rural areas.

The big picture: The survey finds that public support for protests over the killing of George Floyd has cooled since mid-June across racial and ethnic lines. The trend is about the same in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as nationally.

  • Support for those demonstrations dropped by between eight and 10 percentage points each across all major racial and ethnic groups.
  • Black Americans remain the most supportive, at 78%. White Americans are the least supportive, at 46%. Republican support dropped to 17%, while 86% of Democrats still support the protests.
  • Support for the Black Lives Matter and "defund the police" movements also dropped since the start of the summer.
  • 57% of white suburban women hold favorable views of Black Lives Matter. But they are split between those who feel secure in their communities (63%) and those who don’t feel safe (43%).

Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted August 31 - September 6, 2020 among a national sample of 35,732 adults in the U.S., of whom 14,043 are white and live in suburbs. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day.

  • The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points for the national sample. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

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