BLM and coronavirus: Exit poll reveals how concerned voters really are

A new exit poll shows the three biggest issues in the US election for voters are: the economy, racial inequality, and COVID-19. We asked experts what this exit poll means as election results roll in.

Across The U.S. Voters Flock To The Polls On Election Day

Source: Getty Images North America

A new exit poll has found voters in the US election are more concerned with racial inequality than COVID-19. 

The top issues for voters on election day are; the economy, racial inequality, and the coronavirus pandemic. The exit poll released by found racial inequality is the second most important issue for voters.

The exit poll found 21 per cent of voters believe racial inequality is the most pressing issue in the upcoming election, while only 18 per cent referenced the pandemic. 

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So what does this mean?

Dr Melissa Brown is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. She believes that the only three per cent discrepancy between voter concerns regarding racial inequality and COVID-19 shows that both issues have people pretty worried.

“White, middle or working-class Americans want a president who will stop people from protesting against racial inequality and require states to let go of COVID-19 restrictions,” Dr Brown told Dateline.

“In other words, they want a president that facilitates their sense of freedom.”

The last presidential election saw than Democratic nominee, Hilary Clinton. 

Dr Brown said communities of colour in the US, particularly from working class backgrounds, are concerned that “the freedoms white middle class Americans want are going to infringe on their rights.”

"They [Black communities] are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and would want a president who intends to institute protections at a national level and provide support for essential workers," she said.

But Dr Brown says the poll's demographics could be skewed. She explained that white Americans make up 73 per cent of the US population but were said to be 77 per cent of respondents to the exit poll.

While just over 13 per cent of the US population is Black, only 12 per cent of those surveyed were Black. America's Hispanic community makes up over 16 per cent of the population, but only 10 per cent of them were poll respondents.

"Overall, I'd say for white Americans, the survey might be accurate, but assume it's slightly inaccurate for Black people, Hispanics, and Asians," she said.

So how does the exit polls work?

Luke Mansillo from the University of Sydney specialises in electoral behaviour and election polling. He says the exit poll includes a sample of 100,000 people, 2,000 representing each of the 50 states in America.

"The survey has been fielded from 13th of October, until Election Day," Mansillo told Dateline.

The exit poll uses multiple modes of interviewing voters from online, television, and in-person interviews.

Mansillo believes that the two biggest issues to come out of the survey - the economy and racial inequality -- represent the "owned issues" by Trump and Democrat nominee, Joe Biden.

Owned issues are those that voters perceive as a candidate's strongest talking point.

"If you care about racial inequality, you're well and truly going to be voting for Biden. But if you care about the economy at this point in time, for the most part, you're likely going to be very Trump," Mansillo told Dateline.

Mansillo also says previous research shows that racial inequality is a generational divide. He says white Americans aged between 18 to 25, who are college-educated, are more likely to believe there are higher levels of racism in the US than African-Americans as a whole.

"So there's a generational component," he said, "it's an issue for young people. It's also an issue for African Americans."

How important is the Black Lives Matter Movement in this election?

Dr Brown says the impact hasn't been seen at a federal level just yet.

"I imagine many of the effects are happening at the local level and that some people might have experienced setbacks," she said.

She gives the example of Minneapolis, where the city council claimed that they would abolish their police department, but that proposal ended up being delayed.

"Nevertheless, social movements have ebbs and flows. The most profound effect is that the movement opened up many people to new concepts - antiracism, police abolition," she said.

She believes Trump's focus on law and order is similar to previous Republican presidents like Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan.

"The way these issues are talked about doesn't really address inequalities as much as they address the fear among white Americans that they will be replaced or ruled by people of color," she said.

What’s changed since the 2016 US election?

Prior to the election, Morning Consult, a data technology company, were more likely to vote for Biden. And , this election may have a  casting their ballots blue than any other previous re-election. 

“I think people should be prepared to see that some racial and ethnic minorities have become more conservative since Obama, while some white groups have become more liberal,” Dr Brown said.

“Some people of colour feel Obama didn't do enough and Trump offers more promise. Some white people might realise their conservative views prevented them from seeing Obama's value and they resent how Trump has changed the way their friends or family think.

“Whether or not these shifting views among various groups are ultimately just going to balance each other out and lead to the same result as 2016 remains the biggest question.”


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5 min read
Published 4 November 2020 at 2:54pm
By Ahmed Yussuf