Most voters in 2020 battlegrounds fear coronavirus will lead to recession, CNBC/Change Research poll finds

Key Points
  • Most voters in six swing states that will determine the 2020 election have significant concerns coronavirus will lead to a recession, according to a CNBC/Change Research poll. 
  • A greater share of respondents worries now about an economic contraction than getting sick or losing their jobs or wages because of the global pandemic. 
  • While voters have started to fear economic damage, health care is still their top concern when thinking about how to vote in November. 
Concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in large gatherings, students from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts wear respiratory masks as they wait for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to speak to supporters during a rally and march to early vote on February 27, 2020 at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Brian Blanco | Getty Images

Most voters in the states that will decide the 2020 election worry the coronavirus pandemic will derail the economy, a new poll finds. 

In the critical 2020 battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, 57% of likely voters have very or somewhat serious concerns the outbreak will lead to a recession, according to States of Play, a joint CNBC/Change Research swing state poll released Sunday. A larger share of respondents expressed significant worries about an economic contraction than they did about other damage from coronavirus. 

  • 51% said they have very or somewhat serious concerns about themselves or a family member getting sick
  • 35% said the same about lost wages 
  • 16% said they had significant concerns about losing their jobs

Like voters nationally largely mirror the fears held by 2020 battleground respondents: 54% said they have very or somewhat serious concerns about a recession. 

As the coronavirus disease spreads and hamstrings businesses and other institutions, the poll shows voters in key states have started to fear economic damage. In addition, more than half of respondents said they or their family members have taken steps to prepare for the coronavirus disease.

The U.S. government has taken steps to mitigate the disruption: Congress has passed emergency medical funding and the House has approved an economic relief plan, while the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates and injected more liquidity into the market. Stocks have taken a drubbing as the virus spreads, as major U.S. indexes all dropped more than 8% last week.

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But the survey finds the pandemic has not surpassed other issues when Americans think about casting their ballots. 

Only 9% of respondents in the six swing states called coronavirus the most important factor in their vote, while 29% called it one of several important factors. Respondents thought most about candidates' positions on health care in considering their ballots in November: 43% called it the most important factor, while 48% listed it as one of several important factors. 

Battleground voters are nearly split on Trump's response to the crisis: 48% consider it excellent or good, while 52% called it fair or poor. However, respondents have strong negative feelings about how the president has handled the outbreak, as 45% call his response poor. 

Voters do not clearly prefer one of his two main Democratic rivals to guide the U.S. through the outbreak. Asked who would do a better job between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, 50% of respondents chose each option. Choosing between Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, 49% thought the incumbent was better equipped to handle the crisis, while 51% picked the Vermont lawmaker. 

The poll of six swing states surveyed 2,483 likely general election voters from March 9 to 11. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.97 percentage points. 

The national poll surveyed 1,541 likely voters over the same period and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 percentage points. 

Tune into CNBC on Monday for more coverage of the polls' findings. 

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