How Biden supporters became optimistic

November 12, 2020, 5:00 PM UTC

All it takes is winning an election. The pre-election Economist/YouGov Poll found American voters somewhat more optimistic than pessimistic about the future of the country. That is true this week, too. But much has changed in who feels good. 

Last week, most of those who expected to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden were pessimistic about the future of America. Those who planned to vote to re-elect President Trump were mostly optimistic. This week, there has been a turnaround. Most (73%) Biden voters are optimistic; Trump voters (21%) are not.   

There are other overall improvements in happiness among the former Vice President’s supporters, though none are as dramatic. Last week, 19% of Biden voters said they were better off today than they were four years ago. Since the election, that percentage has risen nine points, to 28%. 

While most Biden voters continue to say the country is on the wrong track, the share saying it is headed in the right direction jumped from 4% last week to 22% this week. Last week, twice as many of the President's supporters said the country was on the right track (60%) as thought it was headed in the wrong direction (28%). Since the President’s election defeat, those percentages have flipped: only 25% of Trump supporters believe the country is on the right track; 61% say it's headed in the wrong direction. 

Nearly all (92%) Biden supporters believe the election was fair, and they overwhelmingly (95%) claim that higher voter turnout is better for democracy. Biden supporters largely reject the notion that the election was rigged, and 59% believe that while there may have been some fraud, it had little impact on the outcome of the election.  

Much of the outcome depended on the Democratic surge in mail ballots. Nearly nine in ten (88%) Biden voters would support counting all mail ballots that are postmarked by election day, even if they arrive a few days later – something currently under review in several close states where the Trump campaign is bringing lawsuits to not count those ballots, even though state courts ruled could be counted if postmarked on or before election day. Three in four (74%) Biden voters are enthusiastic about the outcome – and a similar number (72%) are excited about the next four years with Joe Biden as President. 

Although they are content – and happy – with the outcome, there is a problem most Biden supporters have with the election system – one that would require a Constitutional change. Four years ago, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college. This year, Joe Biden won in both, although even with a national lead larger than Clinton’s, it took three days before he carried enough electoral votes to win. 

Seven in 10 Biden voters would amend the Constitution to allow for election by national popular vote, while a majority (77%) of the President’s voters, who benefited four years ago, would leave the current system in place.  

Last year, there was a similar political divide over eliminating the Electoral College. Democrats supported switching to a popular vote election 72% to 13%. Just 15% of Republicans agreed. More than two-thirds of Republicans wanted to keep the system as it is.  

One reason Democrats would like to see a change in role of the Electoral College in presidential elections is the Democratic dominance in states with big populations, like California. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton’s national popular vote margin was due to her massive victory in the state of California. This year, Biden has a nearly 5 million vote lead there, matching his current lead over the President in the national popular vote. As of today, votes are still being counted there and in New York, another strong Biden state.  

While they are happy with the outcome, many Biden voters have one big concern. Will there be a peaceful transfer of power? Nearly half (48%) of Biden’s voters say that’s not very likely or not likely at all. But a similar number (45%) say a peaceful transfer is likely. The results are not much different from what they were before the election. Then, 52% of Biden voters thought a peaceful transition to a Biden Administration wasn’t likely.  

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

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between November 8 - November 10, 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 3.2% for the overall sample.   

Image: Getty