With just a few weeks to go before Election Day, most Americans have doubts about the fairness of the voting process, reported a new Public Affairs Council poll. In fact, only 29% of Americans have faith that the 2020 elections will be conducted in an honest and open way. Concern about election integrity and/or voting access is widespread across every age group, education level, geographic region and ethnic category.

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult in late August among a national sample of 2,199 adults, examined a wide range of topics including how the pandemic has been managed, racism in America, and public opinion of large and small businesses.

Twenty-one percent (21%) believe the elections will be neither honest nor open, and 18% believe the elections will be open to everyone with a right to vote but won’t be conducted in an honest way. An additional 14% have the opposite concern — that the elections will be honest but not adequately open.

Despite President Trump’s claim that the U.S. will experience “the greatest rigged election in history,” Democrats and Independents are far more worried than Republicans about the integrity of the 2020 vote. While 42% of Republicans are convinced that the elections will be both honest and open, only 25% of Democrats and 23% of Independents agree.

Public Critical of Federal Government Handling of COVID-19
Survey results indicate the majority of Americans are critical of the job the federal government has done balancing health and safety concerns with the need to open up the economy. Four in 10 (41%) said the feds have done a poor job and another 24% said they have done just a fair job. Only 27% rated the federal government’s performance as good or excellent.
What’s more, 45% of all Americans said the federal government’s efforts to open up the economy were moving too fast while only 26% said they were moving too slow.

Among Democrats, 80% said the federal government has done a just fair or poor job and only 14% said they’ve done a good or excellent job. Sixty-two percent (62%) of Democrats think the feds are re-opening the economy too fast, and only 22% think they are re-opening it too slow.

Independents are close to the Democrats in their assessment of government. Among Independents, 67% ranked the fed as poor or fair in this area and only 20% approve of the job being done. Thirty-nine percent (39%) are concerned about the federal government re-opening the economy too fast and only 25% are most concerned with re-opening the economy too slow.

Republicans are split on Washington’s performance in dealing with the pandemic’s impact. While 49% of Republicans gave the federal government a score of good or excellent in balancing safety and the economy, 45% gave scores of fair or poor. When asked to judge the pace at which the feds are trying to re-open the economy, 30% of Republicans said the economy was re-opening too fast and 30% said it was re-opening too slow.

The private sector scored much better than the public sector in managing COVID-19 challenges. Forty-five percent (45%) said major companies have done a good or excellent job of achieving a balance between health/safety and the economy, and only 44% disagreed. Small businesses received the best marks, with 66% giving them scores of good or excellent and 24% rating them just fair or poor.

Most View Racism as Serious Problem in U.S.
The Black Lives Matter movement has galvanized public concern about racial injustice, but it has become controversial when protestors have ceased to be peaceful. Nevertheless, three-out- of-four Americans (74%) believe racism is a somewhat or very serious problem in the U.S.

While 68% of Democrats consider racism a very serious problem, only 22% of Republicans and 44% of Independents agree. In fact, 23% of Republican men consider racism “not a serious problem at all” — a view shared by only 2% of Democratic men.

The overall score of 74% concern about racism is exactly the same percentage of Americans who found racism to be a serious problem when the Public Affairs Pulse Survey was conducted in 2016, right before that year’s presidential election.

Despite corporate pledges to support Black Lives Matter, many Americans see businesses as “not making a difference” in combatting racism. Four years ago, 24% said major U.S. companies were playing a negative role in trying to reduce racism while 27% said they were playing a positive role. This year, only 14% said companies are playing a negative role and 28% said major companies are playing a positive one. A plurality of 38% in the 2020 survey said major companies are not making any difference in reducing racism.

Survey results show that efforts to stop racism will be rewarded, however. If a major company were to take steps to prevent racism, 51% said they would have a more favorable opinion of that firm and only 9% said they would have a less favorable opinion.

Support Rises for Big and Small Businesses
Favorability of major companies rose from 48% in 2019 to 53% in 2020. Only 35% of Americans said they have an unfavorable opinion of major companies. The primary drivers are customer service (up 12 percentage points), employee pay (up five percentage points), serving stockholders (up four percentage points), and providing useful products and services (up four percentage points).

Small businesses attract even higher ratings. Eighty-six percent (86%) of the public said they had a somewhat or very favorable opinion of small businesses — roughly the same level of support they received in 2019.

Nevertheless, the public believes corporate CEOs lack trustworthiness. Only 7% think big business leaders have high standards for honesty and ethics, while 47% believe their standards are low. Meanwhile, 37% believe small business owners have high standards for honesty and ethics, and only 4% believe their standards are low.

Trust in major companies to behave ethically is considerably higher than trust in the people who run them. Forty-seven percent (47%) of Americans place some or a lot of trust in major companies. Sector by sector, every type of company scored better this year for trustworthiness than it did in 2019.

Of the industries tested, the industry rated least trustworthy was pharmaceuticals, which has held that distinction for the past six years. The most trusted sectors tested were food and beverage, manufacturing and large retailing, which all received similar scores.

You can view the full report here.

Doug Pinkham is president of the Public Affairs Council, the leading global
association for public affairs professionals. The Council, which is both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, has more than 700 member companies, associations and universities. You can reach him at dpinkham@pac.org.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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