Poll: Americans more interested in presidential race, more anxious

Emily Swanson and Hannah Fingerhut
Associated Press

Washington – A year out from the 2020 general election, there already is significant interest in the presidential campaign. But a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds a growing share of Americans feeling anxious and frustrated compared with early in the summer.

Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say they’ve been paying close attention, but the poll finds feelings of anxiety and frustration more concentrated among Democrats.

A look at how Americans are feeling about the campaign with one year to go until the 2020 general election:

Similar interest, uneven anxiety

The poll finds widespread interest in the campaign, including among 82% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans. Overall, 73% of Americans say they’re interested, up slightly from 66% in June.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they feel anxious, 67% to 45%, and frustrated, 64% to 49%. But the poll finds that levels of frustration and anxiety have increased among people from both parties since June.

A worker vacuums the stage before the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democrats who describe themselves as liberal are slightly more likely than moderates and conservatives to say they’re interested, 88% to 79%, but also significantly more likely to say they’re anxious, 80% to 60%.

How Democrats see their candidates

Democrats have largely positive views of all their front-running candidates.

Overall, similar proportions say they have a favorable view of the top three Democratic candidates – 72% for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 68% for former Vice President Joe Biden and 65% for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. About 2 in 10 have negative opinions of each.

Warren is still less well known among Democrats. Slightly more say they don’t know enough about Warren to have an opinion than say that about Biden or Sanders, 16% versus 9% and 8%, respectively.

Despite high ratings for all three front-runners, there are signs of ideological division.

Biden scores slightly higher among Democrats who describe themselves as moderate and conservative than among those who say they’re liberal, 72% to 62%.

The pattern is the opposite for Warren, with 76% of liberal Democrats and 58% of moderate and conservative ones viewing her favorably, and for Sanders, with positive ratings from 79% of liberal Democrats and 68% of moderate and conservative ones.

California Sen. Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are even less well-known than the other top candidates. Views of both are more positive than negative within the party, but even among Democrats, 25% say they don’t know enough about Harris and 40% say the same of Buttigieg.

How the public sees the Democrats

While the general election may be a year away, Americans are already closely divided on the Democratic primary contest’s front-runners.

Biden sees favorable ratings from 44% of Americans, and unfavorable ones from 42%. Views are slightly more favorable than unfavorable for Sanders, 47% to 41%.

About as many have a favorable opinion of Warren as an unfavorable one, 38% to 37%, with about one-quarter still saying they don’t know enough about her to have an opinion.

Opinions on Harris and Buttigieg are also closely divided, but large proportions of Americans have no opinion of each – about one-third for Harris and close to half for Buttigieg.

Views of whoever becomes the nominee could change as November of 2020 nears. Hillary Clinton started out with largely positive ratings from Americans after her tenure as secretary of state, but negative opinions increased over the course of the 2016 campaign.

How the public sees the president

More than half of Americans, 55%, say they have an unfavorable opinion of President Donald Trump, while 40% say they have a favorable opinion. Eight in 10 Republicans have a favorable opinion, while nearly 9 in 10 Democrats have an unfavorable one.

Among Republicans, those who describe themselves as liberals and moderates are much more likely to have an unfavorable opinion than those who describe themselves as conservatives, 30% to 10%.

In 2016, Trump overcame similarly low popularity and even doubts among some Republicans to win the White House.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, many Americans – 42% – say they’ve been paying more attention to politics. An additional 43% say they’re paying about as much attention as they were before, while 15% say they’ve been paying less attention.

Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they’ve been paying more attention since Trump took office, 47% to 41%, but also more likely to say they’ve been paying less attention, 18% to 9%.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,075 adults was conducted Oct. 24-28 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.