Majority Says They Won’t Vote For Trump In 2020

A new poll shows that a majority of Americans say they won't vote for President Trump in 2020. but that's only half the battle for Democrats

A majority of Americans won’t vote for President Trump in 2020, but that doesn’t mean Democrats should start celebrating just yet:

More than 50 percent of respondents in a new survey say they will not vote for President Trump when he seeks reelection in 2020.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll released Monday found that 55 percent of respondents said they will not vote for Trump next year, with only 39 percent approving of his work since taking office.

Of respondents who were asked if they would vote from Trump in 2020, 14 percent said they would consider it and 28 percent said they definitely would vote for him to have a second term in the White House.

Of those respondents who said they wouldn’t vote for Trump, only 29 percent said they would for sure vote for his eventual Democratic counterpart.

Nearly two-thirds instead said they would wait to see who emerges from the crowded Democratic field, which is currently made up of 21 candidates vying for the nomination.

As Philip Bump notes in The Washington Post, though, that doesn’t mean that Democrats should start shopping for dresses for the Inaugural balls just yet:

On the surface, one result from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll seems like unequivocally bad news for President Trump. Of the registered voters we surveyed, more than half indicated that there was no chance they would vote for Trump in his 2020 reelection bid.

That’s the ballgame, right? If half the country refuses to vote for a candidate in what’s essentially a two-person race, how can that candidate win? But, of course, it’s not that simple.


But there’s another warning sign from our poll. We asked a follow-up question of those who said they definitely wouldn’t vote for Trump: Would they definitely vote for the Democratic candidate? The results of that question were not what would help the Democratic National Committee sleep easily: Seventeen percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote for the Democrat, while 30 percent said they would definitely vote for Trump.


But remember, too, that “won’t vote for Trump” isn’t as predictive as it seems. In 2016, about 63 million people voted for Trump. About 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump still won, thanks to the electoral college.

More concerning for Democrats is that a lot of people didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 because they didn’t vote at all. Census Bureau estimates indicate that about 20 million registered voters didn’t cast a ballot. Analysis after the fact suggested that more than 4 million people who had voted for Barack Obama in 2012 stayed home in 2016, a third of them black. Notice in the data above how many nonwhite voters indicated that they weren’t yet sure whether they would back the Democrat. About a fifth said they would definitely vote for the Democrat — but half said they were waiting to see what happened, significantly more than the quarter of white Trump opponents who said the same thing.

Add in the 33 million adult citizens who weren’t registered to vote in 2016 (again, according to the Census Bureau) and you get 119 million Americans who didn’t vote for Trump as opposed to 63 million who did. And, as you know, Trump won anyway.

Look, it’s not good for Trump that more than half of voters plan not to vote for him. But it’s probably not something that keeps him up at night. In 2016, part of his campaign strategy was to make Clinton unpalatable while encouraging infrequent Republicans to come out and vote. His strategy, in other words, was to keep people who didn’t particularly like him from bothering to go to the polls.

If the Democrats want to win in 2020, it’s not enough that most Americans don’t really like Trump. They need to get those iffy voters to pull the lever for the Democrat — something to which most Trump opponents aren’t yet committed.

In some respects, the truths revealed by this second half of the poll are the same as the dilemma that Democrats faced in 2016. While there was a substantial segment of the voting public that said that they would not vote for Trump under any circumstances, and Trump ultimately lost the popular vote in no small part due to this, that wasn’t enough to give Hillary Clinton the Electoral College majority she needed. In some respects, of course, this was due to the fact that Clinton herself was viewed nearly as negatively as Trump to the point where a substantial number of voters apparently decided they could not vote for either major party candidate. Many of these voters ended up voting for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein, but there seems to have also been a substantial portion of the public that decided not to vote at all. Additionally, the outcome of the election was in no small part influenced by factors such as the investigation into Clinton’s emails and her handling of classified information while Secretary of State as well as mistakes that her campaign made in not adequately focusing on states in the Midwest where Trump managed to win despite traditional Democratic advantages. It was all of this together that led to Trump’s Electoral College victory, and they are factors

What this poll makes clear is that many of the same factors are at play in 2020 and that Democrats will have to craft a campaign that responds to these realities and finds a way to get these potentially reluctant voters to the polls. One thing this means. of course, is that a campaign that focuses primarily on Trump’s negatives, on impeachment, and on attacking the President probably won’t be enough to win. By the time Election Day 2020 rolls around, American voters will be well aware of all of this but polls like this suggest that it may not be enough get them to the polls. Indeed, to the extent that the election becomes a hyperpartisan contest of mudslinging, voters are likely to react by throwing up their hands and effectively saying “to hell with both you guys.”

Since Trump knows he likely can’t and won’t win if voters are motivated to come to the polls it is in his interest to poison the atmosphere as much as possible such that voters become sick of the process and just tune it out rather than coming out to vote against him. While Democrats should not simply let Trump get away with such behavior. they will have to be careful to balance responding to his lies and negatively with a positive message and with realistic policy goals that the public can get behind. In other words, they need to give the public a reason to vote for their nominee as much as they need to give it a reason to vote against Trump. Where the proper balance for that lies is unclear, but if they miss then they could wake up on November 4. 2020 as surprised and shocked as they were on November 9, 2016.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    Yeah, to me the saga of Gray Davis as governor of California and the subsequent recall that made Arnold the Governator illustrated an important principle: You have to give the public a reason to be for you.

    Davis’ campaign strategy, or what I saw of it, was pretty much all negative: Republicans are crazy, and I’m not a Republican.

    There was no depth of support there, and he got recalled. I really hope this doesn’t happen in 2020.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    With no new wars, a hot stock market and full employment how much ground has Trump gained since the election? Answer: none. He has attracted net zero converts. He has never polled above 50%, while 50% or better have said consistently they will oppose him. In head-to-heads he barely beats a gay mayor no one’s ever heard of.

    Trump has no capacity to attract new followers so yes, he’ll go ever more negative and extreme because it’s the only direction he knows. He’s a one-trick pony and the problem is we’ve all seen the trick now. And seen it. And seen it. He can’t gain support because he’s a despicable man, and a stupid one, and utterly inflexible. And as he continues to dig his hole deeper and deeper he will begin to shed some support and gain nothing.

    And the SDNY has yet to speak.

    Yes, we absolutely need a strong agenda going forward. But I’m not overly worried by this senile fraud who is incapable of appealing to anyone with any vestige of morality or love of country.

  3. Kathy says:

    Robert Heinlein famously said “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”

    But then many votes for Stein and Johnson in 2016 were votes against El Cheeto. This did not save us. A vote against must be effective, not just a blip lost in a protest.

  4. Bill says:

    Just a reminder- Polls and political prognosticators didn’t think Trump wouldn’t win in 2016

    He did and without a majority of the vote.

    PS- I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016.

  5. Kylopod says:


    Just a reminder- Polls and political prognosticators didn’t think Trump [would] win in 2016

    And just who here do you think needs reminding? This point was addressed at length in this very post. Did you read it, or are you just responding to the headline?

  6. An Interested Party says:

    PS- I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016.

    So perhaps you (depending on which state you voted in) and a bunch of people like you helped Trump to win…

  7. Franklin says:

    @Michael Reynolds: For the record, I *am* worried. My view of reality changed as the 2016 election approached and 538’s forecast showed a percentage greater than zero that Trump would get elected.

    The Post just ran an editorial explaining that Trump would win again because of the economy. So I started looking at historical graphs of unemployment – go ahead and do so right now if you feel like it. You’ll find, like the stock market and everything else, that the trend during the Trump administration is pretty much just a straight continuation of the trend from the Obama years.

    But people are stupid: the Republicans had to temporarily goose the economy to keep it going, and yeah it might last a few years. And when it comes crashing down, it’ll get blamed on whoever is President in the next term. Because, again, people are stupid.

  8. Kylopod says:


    And when it comes crashing down, it’ll get blamed on whoever is President in the next term. Because, again, people are stupid.

    It’s one of the reasons why I’m hoping and praying for a recession in the next year. Bill Maher said something along those lines a while ago, but it risked sounding insensitive because he’s a rich guy. I’m not a rich guy. I’d be caught up in the effects of a recession. But first of all, I believe a recession is coming: it’s a matter of when, not if, and I’d prefer it be earlier than later. If there’s no recession by 2020, then there’s a good chance Trump gets reelected. A recession is really the one thing that would nearly guarantee Trump’s defeat. I don’t buy MR’s confidence that Trump hasn’t gained any new supporters. For one thing, I think he has a much more unified party than he did last time around, and a decent economy will keep a certain chunk of disaffected voters on his side, or at least fail to strongly motivate them to vote against him. But even if he loses despite a strong economy, that just means a Dem will be president when it finally crashes–and will inevitably take the blame for it.

  9. Kit says:


    But even if he loses despite a strong economy, that just means a Dem will be president when it finally crashes–and will inevitably take the blame for it.

    Bush got booted out in large part because of the epic financial meltdown on his watch, but Obama ultimately took the blame, at least in the popular imagination. I remember reading an article about some city whose fortunes were tired to the automotive industry. Unemployment spiked and shops shuttered in Bush’s aftermath, only to recover strongly afterwards. And yet seemingly every resident was convinced that the boom they where then living through was a crisis, while having wiped the earlier blood letting from their collective memory. When even money cannot bring people around to reality, what hope is there of combating the Republican propaganda machine?

  10. Kylopod says:


    Bush got booted out in large part because of the epic financial meltdown on his watch, but Obama ultimately took the blame, at least in the popular imagination.

    I disagree. Polls consistently showed the public overwhelmingly blaming Bush more than Obama. While the economy did hurt Obama during the first midterm (a low-turnout event with an energized Republican opposition), he was ultimately reelected. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the public clearly remembered the meltdown struck before he took office and so even the tepid recovery was seen as an improvement. It’s unlikely he would have won reelection if the crash had happened on his watch.

  11. Kit says:

    @Kylopod: I sort of disagree. That poll, and seemingly every other political poll, shows Republicans in their own little world. Does a month ever go by without one of our Right-wing regulars stopping by to point out that the deficit and unemployment exploded under Obama? These are people who lived through these events. But they are too far gone to deal with reality. The next downturn will be blamed on Democrats, at least as far as the Fox crowd is concerned. The timing hardly matters in that sense.

  12. Kylopod says:


    The next downturn will be blamed on Democrats, at least as far as the Fox crowd is concerned.

    But that’s not what you said earlier. You said: “…Obama ultimately took the blame, at least in the popular imagination.” That’s what I was responding to. You didn’t say anything about it being limited to the Fox crowd.

  13. Kit says:

    @Kylopod: You’re right, which is why I said that I sort of disagreed. I was sloppy and should have been more precise.

  14. Mia says:

    @Kathy: “But then many votes for Stein and Johnson in 2016 were votes against El Cheeto. This did not save us.”
    I disagree. Those votes were against HilLIAR Clinton.