Poll: 80 percent of voters say things are out of control in the U.S.

Joe Biden maintains his lead over President Donald Trump in new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll as most voters remain concerned about the coronavirus and the economy.
Image: Protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington
Demonstrators gather behind a fence during a protest in Lafayette Square in front of the White House on Thursday, June 4, 2020.Jim Bourg / Reuters

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By Mark Murray

WASHINGTON — Eight out of 10 voters believe that things are out of control in the United States, with majorities still concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, pessimistic about the economy's returning to normal before next year and down on President Donald Trump's ability to unite the nation.

Those are the major findings of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that was conducted May 28 to June 2, during the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 100,000 and after millions of people have lost their jobs.

But the survey was conducted before Friday's surprising jobs report, which found the unemployment rate declining to 13.3 percent and the economy adding 2.5 million jobs in May.

"Out of control — that's America in 2020," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who helped conduct the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his GOP colleagues at Public Opinion Strategies.

It's "one of the few things Americans can agree upon and the one finding that we can definitively state given the tumult and torment of the past 12 days," Horwitt said.

Despite the turmoil and instability, the NBC News/WSJ poll shows that attitudes about Trump and the 2020 election remain locked in place, with the president's job rating stuck in the mid-40s and with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden maintaining his national lead over Trump.

McInturff, the GOP pollster, said it's striking that Trump's job rating and ballot position haven't changed given the extraordinary events over the last 90 days.

"Those are remarkable findings that speak to the power of our partisan silos," he said.

According to the poll, 80 percent of registered voters say they feel that things are generally out of control in the country, versus 15 percent who believe that things are under control.

That includes 92 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and even 66 percent of Republicans who think things are out of control.

In addition, a combined 63 percent of voters say they're "very" or "somewhat" worried that they or someone in their immediate families might catch the coronavirus, down by 10 points from April's poll (with much of the decline coming from Republicans).

Nearly half of voters — 46 percent — describe the state of the economy as "poor," the highest percentage on this question since September 2012.

By comparison, 31 percent say it's "only fair," 17 percent say it's "good," and just 5 percent say it's "excellent."

And a majority — 54 percent — believes it will take a year or longer for the coronavirus to be contained and for the economy to return to normal.

More voters concerned about George Floyd's death than the protests afterward

Voters by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 say they're more worried about the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer put a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and the actions of police than they are about recent protests that have occasionally turned violent.

Fifty-nine percent of all voters — including 54 percent of whites, 65 percent of Latinos and 78 percent of African Americans — said they're more troubled by Floyd's death and the actions of police.

That's compared with 27 percent who said they're more concerned about the protests over Floyd's death, some of which have turned violent.

But there's a partisan divide: 81 percent of Democratic voters and 59 percent of independents say they're more concerned about Floyd's death, versus just 29 percent of Republicans who agree.

The poll shows that a majority of voters — 55 percent — prefer a candidate for president or Congress who looks for compromise and consensus, even if it means less change.

By contrast, 35 percent say they prefer a candidate who favors bigger and bolder changes, even if it means more division for the country.

Trump continues to trail Biden in national matchup

When it comes to the presidential contest in November, Biden leads Trump nationally by 7 points among all registered voters, 49 percent to 42 percent — unchanged from April's poll.

"Against Biden, going back to last July, here are Trump's numbers — 42 percent, 41 percent, 44 percent, 44 percent, 43 percent, 42 percent and again 42 percent," said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

"The 45th president has yet to get to 45 percent, let alone closer than a 6-point deficit against the former vice president," he said.

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Looking inside the new horse race numbers, Biden's biggest advantages are among African Americans (82 percent to 9 percent), Latinos (57 percent to 33 percent), women (56 percent to 35 percent), voters ages 18 to 34 (54 percent to 35 percent), whites with college degrees (52 percent to 39 percent), independents (45 percent to 35 percent) and those ages 65 and older (51 percent to 43 percent).

Trump's top advantages are among all white voters (49 percent to 43 percent), men (50 percent to 42 percent) and whites without college degrees (55 percent to 37 percent).

Among voters living in the top battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Biden's combined lead over Trump is 8 points, 50 percent to 42 percent.

On the issues, Trump leads Biden on which candidate can better get Americans back to work (48 percent pick Trump, while 35 percent prefer Biden), on dealing with the economy overall (48 percent to 37 percent) and on dealing with China (43 percent to 40 percent).

Biden holds the edge on dealing with the coronavirus (48 percent to 37 percent), on health care (49 percent to 34 percent), on addressing issues of concern to the African American community (49 percent to 30 percent), on dealing with issues of concern to women (46 percent to 25 percent) and on being able to unite the country (51 percent to 26 percent).

Trump's job rating stands at 45 percent; Democrats hold advantage for Congress

Finally in the new poll, 45 percent of registered voters approve of Trump's job (including 31 percent who do so strongly), versus 53 percent who disapprove (and 47 percent who do so strongly).

In April, Trump's job rating stood at 46 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove.

And 43 percent of voters approve of the president's handling of the coronavirus — down by 1 point from April.

Democrats hold an 11-point advantage on congressional preference, with 51 percent of all voters preferring to have Democrats in control of Congress, compared with 40 percent who want Republicans in charge.

Democrats held a 6-point advantage on this question in January.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 registered voters — more than half of whom were contacted by cellphone — was conducted May 28 to June 2, and the overall margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.