Hofstra poll shows 40 percent of likely voters would favor state secession depending on election results

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Results from a poll conducted by Hofstra University show that more than half of 'likely voters' in 2020 prefer former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

A poll conducted by Hofstra University shows that former Vice President Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump, but nearly 40 percent of likely voters would support state secession if their candidate loses.

According to the poll, 41 percent of Democrats interviewed said they would support secession from the Union if their preferred candidate were to lose, compared with 44 percent of Republicans.

Craig Burnett, an associate professor of political science at Hofstra and director of the poll program, said: “The erosion of trust in the process, along with the fact that nearly 40 percent of likely voters would support the idea of their state seceding from the union is alarming. It speaks volumes about the degree to which we are divided as a country and that many people view this as a high-stakes election.”

While support for secession may show the depths of division, it is not clear how practical the idea is. The Supreme Court has ruled that a state does not have a right to secede, and the South’s attempt to secede led to the Civil War in 1861.

The poll was conducted in mid-September by YouGov for Hofstra’s Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency with more than 2,000 interviews.  The poll recorded responses from people 18 years of age or older classified as “likely voters.” 

According to a news release from the university, the survey’s overall margin of error is 2.92 percent, and it is 4.0 for suburbanites, 6.4 for urban respondents and 5.8 for rural respondents.

The poll found that Biden, a Democrat, is leading Trump 53 percent to 42, with suburban women supporting Biden by more than 20 points over the Republican incumbent. While Biden received a large overall margin of support compared with Trump, he only leads the president by 3.6 points when voters were asked who they believe will win the election.

Nearly 30 percent of voters also indicated that they would be dubious of the general election results if there is “no clear winner” declared on Election Day.

A total of 11 percent said they would refuse to accept the results, and 19 percent said they would only accept the results with “major reservations.”  More than 40 percent of voters said they believe millions of fraudulent ballots were cast in the previous general election, although there is no evidence of that.

Results from the poll also show that Trump’s favorability ratings have taken a five-point hit since a poll conducted in March, before the coronavirus pandemic. 

The latest poll shows that nearly 60 percent of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, an issue he has generally performed well on with voters in the past.  In March, Trump’s net approval for handling the economy was at 5.3 percent, a rating that has since decreased to less than 1 percent.

“Since last fall, the Kalikow School Poll has demonstrated the strongest public support for the president’s job performance on the economy,” said Meena Bose, political science professor and executive dean of public policy and public service programs at the Kalikow school of government. “This makes the decline in net approval from 5.3 percent in early March to 0.2 percent in mid-September especially problematic for the Trump re-election campaign.”

Sixty percent of likely voters said public health should take precedence over the handling of the economy, with the issue remaining “deeply partisan,” according to the poll. More than 90 percent of registered Democrats polled said public health should be the priority, while nearly 80 percent of Republicans believe the economy is the most important aspect to focus on.

More than half of voters believe it will take more than a year for the nation to “resume normal social and economic activity” once the pandemic subsides.

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