Polling shows political engagement in the United States at a high as early voting begins

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WATCH: New polling data in the U.S. shows interest in the presidential election is equally high among both Democrat and Republican voters, with more people being interested in this campaign than they were during the 2016 election. Mike Armstrong takes a look at what kind of stakes are fuelling both Trump and Biden supporters in Pennsylvania – Oct 18, 2020

The local Joe Biden campaign office in Scranton, Pa., is just two doors down from Donald Trump’s.

The staffers and volunteers inside may be pushing different candidates, but there’s one opinion shared by both sides: in the United States, people care about this election more than ever.

Biden volunteer Terry Bowman says this election doesn’t compare to any other he’s ever worked on.

“I’m an experienced canvasser,” Bowman says. “But I’ve never seen so many people interested in doing something this time.”

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Metres away, sitting behind a table set up on the sidewalk and surrounded by Trump posters, Judy Holly-Storms says people are more engaged because of the stark differences between the candidates, and how much is at stake.

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“There are people that want to change the way America functions,” Holly-Storms says. “I mean, they want to turn our country into a socialist country.”

Opinions on engagement may be anecdotal, but they appear to be supported by recent polling.

A telephone survey conducted by Pew Research Center between July 23 and Aug. 4 shows a majority of both Republican leaning voters and Democrat leaning voters say they’re following this presidential election more closely than in 2016.

When asked how closely they’re thinking about it, 77 per cent of Republicans answered “quite a lot”, versus 78 per cent of Democrats.

“I would say I’m paying more attention than in the past,” says Biden volunteer Willy Smith. “I think this one is, to me, it’s probably more important than any election that I ever was involved in.”

The Pew survey also showed a significant increase in how important Americans believe this election to be.

Read more: ‘Army for Trump’: Republican poll watchers mobilize ahead of U.S. election

In 2000, only 50 per cent of registered voters polled said they felt it “really matters who wins” the presidential election. That increased to 67 per cent in the second Bush election of 2004, and fell to 63 per cent in both Obama elections in 2008 and 2012.

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That number jumped to 74 per cent in Trump’s first election and again this time, with 83 per cent of Americans saying it really matters who wins.

Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center

Out for a walk over the weekend, Scranton resident Barbara Kelleher said she’s seen that increase in interest from her friends and family.

“I think that doesn’t surprise me at all,” she says. “I think most people feel passionately one way or the other. Most people are paying attention this time.”

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Scranton resident Melissa Lebouthillier has never worked on a campaign before. She says in the past, her political experience and interest has been limited to just voting.

But this weekend, Lebouthillier was working at a “Towers and Truckers for Trump” event in a parking lot outside a Scranton hardware store. She says she’s volunteering five or six days a week.

“I think there’s a lot on the line right now,” Lebouthillier says.

“So I think people know that if they don’t get involved, there’s a lot of things that we could lose at this point.”

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