The vast majority of Americans had already made up their minds when they handed in their ballots on Election Day, as polls on Election Day showed.
Only 4 percent of Americans indicated that they had decided within the past week whether to vote for President Donald Trump or Joe Biden. In 2016 this figure was more than three times as high. 13 percent of voters said they had decided last week whether they would support Trump or Hillary Clinton.
This year’s small fraction of undecided voters showed that, compared to previous presidential elections, the election depended more on voter turnout than on the candidates’ messages in the run-up to election day.
This year, most voters, 74 percent, said they had made their presidential decision before September, compared with 60 percent in 2016, while those who said they had made their decision in September or October, during the last two months of the campaign, accounted for only 18 percent this year, compared with 24 percent in 2016.
The initial survey was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool, which provides data to the major television stations. The data is derived from thousands of interviews with absent voters, early voters and voters on election day.
This year’s presidential candidates were incumbents and lifelong politicians, which may partly explain why so many Americans had predispositions to Trump and Biden so far off election day. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic this year, more voters cast their ballots early and by mail, another potential factor for the lower number of undecided voters.
Morning Consult surveys showed that early voters took longer to make their decision. Eleven percent said they had made their decision last week, including 5 percent who were undecided before voting. Forty-two percent said they had decided more than a year ago.
With a margin of 21 to 15 percent, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have decided last month. Among those who made a decision more than a year ago, the parties were almost identical, at around 45 percent.
Many of the undecided early voters in the Morning Consult exit poll were young (Gen Z) or independent voters. The older a voter, the more likely he or she was to have made an earlier decision.