Americans willing to do without conventions this year, but not forever

August 03, 2020, 1:40 PM UTC

Political conventions will be different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and for most voters in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, that’s fine. Now that both political parties have reduced their convention size and limited in-person contact, by more than two to one, Americans would be content with just cancelling them altogether.  

Last week, Democrats were willing to cancel the conventions, while by nearly two to one, Republicans wanted them held (55% to 30%). President Donald Trump’s nomination acceptance speech was first scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was moved to Jacksonville, Florida in early June after the North Carolina governor said social distancing would have to be observed at the convention’s original site. Last week, the president canceled the Jacksonville convention component.  

Economist/YouGov data indicates that Republicans and Trump voters accept that cancellation. Among all Republicans, 70 percent approve of canceling the Jacksonville address, and by 68 percent to 20 percent, so do voters who say they will vote to re-elect the President.  

Still, Republicans are divided on whether conventions should just be canceled this year (the GOP will continue to hold other parts of the convention as originally scheduled in Charlotte; the Democrats will hold a much scaled-down meeting in Milwaukee). Those who are voting for President Trump still would like the conventions to be held, though their support for a convention has dropped 17 points in the last week.  

As COVID-19 infections and deaths in the US continue to rise, many voters aren’t sure that in-person campaign events are appropriate. Republicans and Trump voters want them more than Democrats do, but in the last week, their support has weakened.   

Party Conventions
 

More than half the public claims they won’t be watching the conventions at all: 54 percent won’t watch any of the Democratic National Convention; 55 percent won’t watch the Republican National Convention. Most Republicans and Democrats say they will watch at least some part of their party’s convention. 

But, about three in 10 (28%) of those supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and 28 percent of those supporting President Trump, claim they won’t be watching any part of their candidate’s convention — not even their respective candidate’s acceptance speech.    

While Americans recognize that this year’s conventions will be different, support for conventions, in general, remains positive. However, support isn’t overwhelming. A third of the public doesn’t express an opinion about future conventions.  

Democrats are just about as willing to give up on all national conventions in the future as they are to support them. Republicans, looking ahead, are much more positive about conventions. That’s especially the case with supporters of President Trump. By nearly five to one, they say parties should be holding national conventions. 

Americans who would cancel the 2020 conventions are closely divided on future conventions: a third of them believe future conventions should be held, 37 percent would eliminate all future conventions, and nearly a third aren’t sure whether conventions should ever be held again.  

Related: Are Americans more worried about voter fraud or denying eligible voters their ballot?  

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 

Methodology: This Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between July 26 - 28, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.5% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty