America’s alternate versions of reality run far deeper than beliefs around election legitimacy.

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An event like the storming of the U.S. Capitol does not occur in a vacuum. The underlying forces and belief systems that culminated in a mob descending on the halls of Congress have been building for some time.

The fault lines in the nation’s understanding of what is fact and what is fiction have long been apparent. The 2020 election, which both parties saw as a “battle for the soul of the nation,” further exacerbated these rifts.

While a substantial number of Americans rejected the reality of President-elect Joe Biden’s win soon after the election was called in his favor, spurred on by President Trump and his allies openly contesting the results, the groundwork had been laid well before November 3rd. …

Many still believe that the coronavirus was developed in a laboratory in China.

A schism in Americans’ understanding of the threat that the coronavirus pandemic represents appeared early on in the crisis and has lingered throughout the year. This divide is deeply engrained across partisan lines, with Democrats consistently indicating the highest levels of concern about the pandemic.

By contrast, less than half of Republicans say they are “extremely or very” concerned about the virus. There was a brief period in early April when around 57% of Republicans indicated more elevated levels of concern about the pandemic, but these numbers soon leveled off through the spring and on into the fall.

As these mixed views on the level of threat that the virus represents would suggest, the belief systems underpinning them also look quite different. …

How public opinion evolved over the course of a tumultuous year.

2020 was the year that the word “unprecedented” first became ubiquitous, and then overused, as the nation struggled to keep pace with the rapidly evolving events of the day. From a global pandemic, to economic free fall, to widespread protest against racial inequality, the improbable and unforeseen became our lived reality in 2020.

Ipsos tracked the evolution of trends in public opinion around these issues as they unfolded. To celebrate the close of 2020, we summed up the year in charts.

1. Concern about the coronavirus hinges on partisan affiliation. From the start of the pandemic, Democrats were much more concerned about the virus than Republicans — and have remained so. …

FOX News viewership is down, “none” is up.

In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, FOX News ratings are significantly down, while sites promoted by President Trump, like Newsmax or OANN, are getting a boost.

These trends are echoed in the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, which tracks where Americans are primarily sourcing their news. From the start of the pandemic to the weeks after the election, the number of Americans who identify FOX as their main source of news fell by six points.

This isn’t the only change in news consumption seen from March to the present. Americans began turning to social media and other digital sources in greater numbers from the spring lockdowns through November — but this rapidly tapered off post-election. …

As 2020 draws to a close, just one in three Americans now believe that America is “great.”

President Trump ran in 2016 on a campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.” Now, four years later, just how many Americans believe the United States is “great?”

Spoiler — just a minority, and fewer now than before. From 2017 to today, the number of Americans who rank the nation as an 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale of greatness has fallen from 51% to 37%.

Democrats and Independents drove the decline. The number of Democrats who see the country as “great” was more than halved from 2017 to 2020, while the number of Independents feeling this way dropped by 15 points. …

Reluctance to take coronavirus vaccine lessens following the 2020 presidential election and latest breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna.

Americans are becoming more open to taking a future vaccine as fears about the virus tick upwards. Some signs of reluctance still linger, however. While the majority of Americans are willing to take a vaccine that has been vetted by pharmaceutical companies, approved by public health officials or has been on the market for a few months, just under half are willing to take a first-generation version.

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But even just shy of half marks an improvement from September through early November, when significant doubts about a first-generation versions emerged as a prospective vaccine became the subject of political disputes. Following the election and the latest breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna, Americans are once again growing more open to the first-generation version, with the number of Americans willing to get one climbing back up to August levels. …

Partisan sentiment tempered by election and pandemic

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The holiday season is poised to be a more constrained affair in 2020 as Americans plan to pull back spending or adjust their shopping habits due to COVID-19. They also show greater signs of worry about the traditional activities and celebrations that come along with the advent of winter.

As the CDC implores Americans to suspend any Thanksgiving plans with people outside their immediate household, a growing number of Americans see socializing indoors, frequenting restaurants and travel as a “large or moderate risk.” …

Some of your most urgent election questions, answered.

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At times it seemed as though 2020 would never get us here, but today is Election Day. Much is still in question. While Biden is heavily favored to win the popular vote, the Electoral College is still competitive.

Against this uncertainty, here is what the Ipsos public polling team will be keeping in mind as the results start to come in.

What states should we be watching tonight?

Keep an eye on Florida and North Carolina. Given that the polls show a Biden-Trump tossup in these two states, they will be a good bellwether of whether the race is going to be a Trump or Biden blowout — or if it will be a close one. And, compared to some of the other swing states, they have a faster system for counting votes, meaning we should be able to get an early, reliable sense of what is to come writ large. …

Trump’s diagnosis keeps the coronavirus front and center in the presidential race.

What you need to know:

  • Voters heading to the polls are looking for a candidate with one of three primary attributes — a robust plan to manage the pandemic, an ability to restore trust in American government, or is effective on the economy and job creation.
  • However, the coronavirus and economy have emerged as the two primary issues defining the 2020 election. A plurality of Democrats and Independents are looking for a candidate with a robust plan to address the pandemic, while a plurality of Republicans are looking for someone who is strong on the economy and job creation.
  • Biden is seen as the strongest on developing a viable plan for helping the nation recover from the virus, while Trump is seen as stronger on the economy and job creation. …

The debate does not appear to have fundamentally altered the trajectory of the race, though Team Trump may be winning the information war if viral articles on Twitter are any indication.

The night of the presidential debate started out innocuously enough on Twitter. Joe Biden’s official account shared a viral photo of Apple EarPods and a pint of Jeni’s ice cream — dubbed the candidate’s “ear piece and performance enhancers” in a riff on right-wing conspiracy theories that he would need more aggressive forms of both to get through the event.

But minutes after the debate began, any semblance of formal structure devolved into cross-talk and shouting. FOX News’ Chris Wallace, the moderator, was unable to wrest back control, at one point pleading with Trump to abide by the agreed upon terms of the debate and to not interrupt Biden during his allotted two minutes to respond to each question. …


Catherine Morris

Data journalist @Ipsos covering trends in public opinion and social media influencing the 2020 US election.

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