Swing state voters give Trump dismal marks as coronavirus cases spike, CNBC/Change Research poll finds

Key Points
  • Voters in six 2020 swing states largely disapprove of how President Trump is handling the coronavirus as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the country, a CNBC/Change Research poll found. 
  • Democrat Joe Biden is widening his lead over the president in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 
  • The survey comes as several states have scaled back or paused their reopening plans due to surging infections. 
Trump falls behind Biden in key battleground states: CNBC/Change poll
Trump falls behind Biden in key battleground states: CNBC/Change poll

Voters in six key 2020 election states have little good to say about how President Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus as the pandemic tears through the country, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll. 

As cases spike in pockets of the South and West after states reopened their economies, likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin believe Trump shoulders much of the blame, the survey released Wednesday found. 

When asked to select two people or groups most responsible for the recent increase in hospitalizations, 35% said the president — the largest share among the answers. Trump was followed by "people not wearing masks" at 34%, "states reopening their economies too soon" at 32% and "people not social distancing" at 29%. 

The poll suggests many voters think Trump plays a role in the policies and behaviors that have contributed to the flood of infections. A majority of respondents, 55%, said they agree that the president is urging states to restart their economies too quickly in order to boost his reelection prospects, while 45% disagree. 

The survey found only 43% of voters agree that Trump is setting a good example and providing accurate information about proper Covid-19 precautions. Another 57% disagree. Trump has drawn backlash for not wearing a face covering in public, a practice his administration says can help to slow infections. 

The poll, taken from Friday to Sunday, surveyed 3,729 likely voters in the six states and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points. 

Along with a wave of other recent surveys, it shows Trump has significant ground to make up before November if he wants to win a second term. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads the incumbent by a 50% to 44% margin across the swing states, wider than the 48% to 45% edge he held in a poll taken two weeks earlier. 

Here's the current state of the race in individual states, according to the CNBC/Change Research poll:

  • Arizona: Biden 51%, Trump 44% 
  • Florida: Biden 50%, Trump 45%
  • Michigan: Biden 48%, Trump 43% 
  • North Carolina: Biden 51%, Trump 44%
  • Pennsylvania: Biden 50%, Trump 44% 
  • Wisconsin: Biden 51%, Trump 43% 

The survey also shows challenges for Republicans running in Senate races in Arizona, Michigan and North Carolina. Democrats need to win those seats — two of which are held by the GOP and one by Democrats — and a handful of others to flip control of the Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber, and keeping it would help them stifle Democratic priorities if Biden wins the White House and his party holds the House. 

In Arizona, Democratic former astronaut Mark Kelly leads GOP Sen. Martha McSally by 53% to 44%, the poll found. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters holds a 49% to 42% advantage over Army veteran John James in Michigan. 

In North Carolina, Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham also holds a 51% to 41% edge over Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. While current polling averages show Kelly and Peters holding wide leads, other recent surveys show a tight race between Cunningham and Tillis. 

The findings come as voters in the six states grow more concerned about Covid-19. Arizona and Florida, in particular, are recent hot spots and are among a growing list of states that have scaled back or stalled their economic reopening. 

Across the six swing states surveyed, 71% of respondents say they have very or somewhat serious concerns about coronavirus. Two weeks ago, the number stood at 64%. 

In response to the increase in cases, 43% of voters surveyed say states should increase precautions again and 27% say they should pause reopening; 18% say the states should continue relaxing precautions, and 12% say they should lift restrictions immediately. 

While Trump has not worn a face mask in public, most swing-state voters have not followed his lead. The poll shows 75% of respondents say they are wearing masks in public, up from 68% two weeks ago. 

Researchers at Goldman Sachs say a federal mask mandate could reduce new infections and prevent an estimated 5% dip in GDP that would otherwise accompany new lockdowns. 

— Graphics by CNBC's Nate Rattner

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