More than 200 members of the Lehigh community completed a second Brown and White poll on the 2020 election as Nov. 3 draws near.
The poll, which was open between Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, assessed respondents’ likelihood to vote, method of voting and presidential candidate preferences. There was also an optional section for respondents to leave comments about their thoughts on the presidential election on the condition that comments would be considered on the record and for potential publication.
The latest poll includes 217 responses, including 155 undergraduate students, 38 faculty, 11 staff, seven graduate students and one administrator. The remaining 12 responses are from alums or retired faculty or staff members.
Out of the 217 responses, 213 said they are registered to vote, and more than 7 in 10 of registered voters are registered in Pennsylvania. The majority of respondents — 65 percent — said they have already voted in the 2020 election. Three-quarters of respondents who already voted said they did so by mail, with about 14 percent reporting they voted early at the polls.
Out of the 30 percent of respondents who said they have not yet voted but plan on doing so, the majority said they plan on voting in-person on Election Day.
About 88 percent of respondents said they support Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president, and 9.3 percent, or 20 individuals, support President Donald Trump. The remaining approximate three percent of respondents support third party candidates.
Biden’s preference among members of the Lehigh community has increased slightly since The Brown and White’s first election poll was published in late September, though the sample size in the first poll was much larger. That poll, which featured 505 responses, showed Biden was supported by about 83 percent of respondents compared to about 88 percent in the most recent poll. The September poll also found that two-thirds of respondents identified themselves as “Democrats” and about half said they were “liberal.”
“Joe Biden is a painfully mediocre candidate, but I voted for him with enthusiasm because the alternative option is four more years of flagrant incompetence, science denial and racism,” said Cameron Pfeffer, ‘21.
Laura Duffany, ‘23, agreed with Pfeffer’s sentiment.
“I am not the biggest fan of the idea of Joe Biden as our president, but we need to get Donald Trump out of office at all costs,” Duffany said.
The latest poll shows a stable level of enthusiasm for the candidate respondents said they would support compared to the September poll, which found about 43 percent of respondents indicating that they support their candidate “very strongly.” Notably, the September poll, which assessed the campus community’s stances on a variety of issues, also found 7 in 10 respondents reporting they are very unsatisfied with the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Principato, ‘22, said it’s Biden’s positions on raising the minimum wage and student debt forgiveness that has him voting blue this election, even if Biden isn’t his ideal candidate.
“While Joe Biden is much more moderate than I’d prefer, the debates convinced me he’s at least going to fight for me more than Donald Trump,” Principato said.
Austin Nealon, ‘20, however, is backing Trump in this election.
Nealon said he’s voting to get “our civil liberties back.” He said Biden’s support for a national mask mandate, as well as Nealon’s fears of a “lockdown” should Biden win, are “frigtening.” Instead, he likes Trump’s push to get the economy “back up and running as soon as possible.”
“(Biden’s plan) is ableist and treats the common man as a mere peasant, and not as a person who is entirely capable of making his own risk assessment,” Nealon said.
Another respondent, who chose not to leave his or her name, is also backing Trump. Despite concerns about Trump’s “outlandish character” and his views on the environment, the respondent will vote for Trump.
“In the almost four years of Trump’s presidency, he has kept peace, strengthened the economy, and shown a dedication to all Americans,” the respondent wrote.
Others, though, are just fed up.
“This upcoming election really speaks to the failures of our democracy,” said Brandon Judge, ‘21. “We have one choice that is basically a fascist, another that is a conservative Democrat who should have never ran given his cognitive decline. I know I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils, and I know many Lehigh students and Americans feel the same way.”
With Election Day fast approaching on Nov. 3, Pennsylvania stands as one of a handful of critical battleground states that will determine the next president. Northampton County voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 before flipping red to support Trump four years ago, helping him become the first Republican presidential candidate to win the Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes since 1988.
And both the Trump and Biden campaigns are vying for Pennsylvania votes this time around. Trump held a rally in Northampton County this past week in which thousands came out in support on a drizzly day. Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Democratic vice presidential nominee and Sen. Kamala Harris, swung through Allentown later in the week to give remarks and rally campaign volunteers and other down-ballot Democrats.
There are other tight races locally and across the state. Democratic Rep. Susan Wild is up for re-election and is running against Republican challenger Lisa Scheller to represent the Lehigh Valley in Congress. Control over Pennsylvania’s General Assembly also hangs in the balance. Republicans currently control both chambers in Harrisburg, but both parties are seeing a surge in fundraising in recent weeks while Democrats attempt to capitalize on the momentum they feel they have on their side.
There are more than nine million registered Pennsylvania voters. More than three million mail-in ballots have been approved and mailed to voters, including nearly 85,000 in Northampton County. Statewide, about 73 percent of mail-in ballots have been returned to their respective counties, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.
State Department data shows there are 102,445 registered Democrats and 81,358 registered Republicans in Northampton County. The vast majority of mail-in ballots in Northampton County have gone to Democrats.
But voters who have yet to turn in their mail-in ballots are being advised not to send it by mail at this point to avoid postal delays. Voters should deliver their ballots to one of Northampton County’s four secure drop boxes, which can be found here.
All ballots must be received by the Elections Office on Nov. 6 by 5 p.m. to be counted. Polls will be open on Nov. 3 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m for those voting in person.
With so much on the line, some voters are counting down the days until a winner is declared.
“It’s been exhausting, and I’m looking forward to this election being over,” said one Brown and White poll respondent. “But I’m not sure things will get any better once it’s done.”