Blue Wall Voices Project

Key Findings

Blue Wall Voices Project

A Collaboration Between KFF and The Cook POlitical Report

The Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report have embarked on a new project examining the attitudes and experiences of voters in several key battleground states leading up the 2020 presidential election. The Blue Wall Voices Project is a unique state-based polling project that relies on an innovative probability-based approach to conducting public opinion polls using a combination of telephone and online methodologies. Drawing from voter registration lists, KFF and Cook Political Report have conducted interviews with 3,222 voters in the four states constituting the “Democratic Blue Wall” – the area in the Upper Midwest that was previously considered a Democratic stronghold, and where state polls performed poorly in 2016 and underestimated support for President Trump. The data analyzed is from 767 voters in Michigan, 958 voters in Minnesota, 752 voters in Pennsylvania, and 745 voters in Wisconsin. For more details, please see the methodology section of this report.   

  • There are many undecided voters and a few persuadable swing voters. One year out from the 2020 presidential election and without a clear frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, a large share of voters – about four in ten (41%) – say they have not yet made up their minds about who they plan to vote for in November 2020. These “swing voters” either report being undecided about their vote in 2020 or are leaning towards a candidate but haven’t made up their minds yet. With a substantial number of votes still up for grabs, this analysis looks in-depth at this group of voters to explore the policy issues that could swing these voters to vote for either President Trump or the Democratic nominee.
  • President Trump himself is the defining factor for voters – both positive and negative. When asked to offer in their own words what one thing will motivate them to vote in the 2020 presidential election, nearly three times as many voters offer responses related to defeating President Trump (21%) as offer responses related to re-electing him or not wanting a Democrat to be elected (8%). Defeating President Trump was offered as the top motivation to vote in 2020 by four in ten Democratic voters (39%) while responses related to re-electing President Trump/not wanting a Democrat were offered by 21% of Republican voters. One-fifth of independent voters offered responses related to defeating President Trump while fewer (7%) of independent voters offered responses related to re-electing President Trump. Overall, one-fourth (23%) of voters offer issues such as health care, the economy, and immigration, as their motivation for voting in the 2020 presidential election.
  • The 2020 election may be a lot about health care and the economy, two issues that voters judge President Trump’s actions on very differently. Health care and the economy are the top issues for voters leading up to the 2020 presidential election but they are also two issues on which voters give President Trump very different marks. Overall, voters are somewhat positive in their views of how President Trump is handling the economy (-1 percentage points net approval) while a larger share of voters “disapprove” than “approve” of the way President Trump is handling health care (-21 percentage points net approval). Health care is one of the only issues in which President Trump’s approval is lower than his overall job approval (-18 percentage points). President Trump also has low approval ratings (-20 percentage points) on the way he is handling foreign policy– an issue of increasing importance among voters in these states.
  • Democrats have a slight edge in enthusiasm in three of the four states heading into the 2020 presidential election. Over six in ten Democratic voters in Pennsylvania (66%), Michigan (65%), and Wisconsin (62%) say they are more motivated to vote in next year’s 2020 presidential election than they were in 2016. This is at least 10 percentage points higher than the share of Republican voters in each state saying the same (54% in Pennsylvania, 53% in Michigan, and 46% in Wisconsin). Republican voters in Minnesota are as motivated as their Democratic counterparts. To see more on Republican voters in Minnesota, check out the Minnesota-specific report.
  • President Trump still has solid support among his base in this region. Most Republican voters approve of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president and large majorities approve of his approach on key national issues including more than nine in ten who approve of the way he is handling the nation’s economy. Most Republican and Republican-leaning voters (73%) also say they want President Trump to be the Republican Party’s nominee for the 2020 election while small shares of Trump voters (28%) can imagine a scenario in which he enacts a policy, or fails to enact a policy, that would result in them changing their vote choice.
  • Few Democratic voters see progressive positions as deal breakers in their 2020 vote. The Blue Wall Voices Project also sought to find out whether the progressive positions being discussed by the Democratic nominees for president on the campaign trail are deal breaker issues for voters. Overall, a majority of voters in the Blue Wall who plan to vote for the Democratic nominee view the progressive platforms asked about in this survey as “good ideas,” including majorities of voters in each of the four states. None of these issues are deal breakers, with most voters saying that if a candidate disagrees with them on this issue then there would still be a chance that they would vote for them.
  • Most swing voters in these states see bans on fracking, stopping detainments at the U.S. border, and Medicare-for-all as bad ideas. The poll also consistently finds that while Medicare-for-all has played a significant role in the 2020 Democratic primary debates, it is not the top health care issue for Democratic voters. Large shares of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin say stopping detainments at the U.S. border for people cross into the country illegally and a national Medicare-for-all plan are “bad ideas.” Swing voters are slightly more divided in their views of a ban on fracking with large shares of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin swing voters saying such a ban is a “bad idea” as do a slim majority in Michigan and half of Minnesota swing voters.
  • As the Democratic presidential primary heats up, this poll finds Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runners among Democratic primary voters in the Blue Wall region. One-fourth of Democratic primary voters in Michigan and Minnesota say they plan to support Sen. Warren during the Democratic primary as do 22% of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters. Former Vice President Joe Biden garners 27% of support from Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar also garners support from 15% of Minnesota Democratic primary voters.
The Role of Swing Voters in the Blue Wall