Most swing-state voters support extending $600 weekly unemployment benefit, CNBC/Change Research poll finds

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Reading Police Officer Bucklin helps to hand out boxes of MREs. At City Light Ministries on Spruce Street in Reading Saturday afternoon May 2, 2020 where a large group came out for the food distribution by One Luv during the coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak.

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As Congress debates how to shape the next phase of coronavirus relief, most voters in six swing states want lawmakers to continue the aid that buoyed Americans through the early stages of the economic crisis, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll. 

The poll released Wednesday surveyed likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states will help determine whether President Donald Trump can defeat his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in November’s presidential election and whether Republicans keep control of the Senate. 

A majority, or 62%, of voters in those states support extending the $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment insurance, the poll found. Only 36% oppose continuing the benefit, which states stopped paying out last week. 

The survey found widespread support in the swing states for other stimulus spending measures, as well. Four in 5 respondents said they back another direct payment of up to $1,200 for people making less than $99,000. Only 18% oppose another round of checks. 

More than two-thirds of voters — 68% — support relief for state and local governments facing budget shortfalls due to the pandemic, versus 28% who oppose the aid, the poll found. Only 32% of respondents back giving corporations immunity from lawsuits related to Covid-19, while 58% oppose such protections, according to the survey. 

The poll surveyed 2,565 likely voters in the six states from Friday through Sunday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. 

As Congress finds itself divided over how much money to spend to try to combat the health and economic crises created by the coronavirus, the poll shows strong support for more federal stimulus. The unemployment insurance extension, assistance for states and municipalities and a liability shield for businesses and doctors are among the thorniest issues officials need to resolve in talks between Republicans and Democrats. 

Negotiators hope to craft a pandemic aid bill that can pass the Republican-held Senate and Democratic-controlled House. The GOP unveiled its opening offer on Monday. Talks then started between the Trump administration and the top congressional Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. 

The Republican legislation would slash the extra federal unemployment benefit to $200 per week, on top of what recipients get from states, through September. It would then shift to a 70% replacement of an individual’s previous wages. 

The GOP contends the $600 per week benefit deters people from returning to work because many recipients make more money at home than they otherwise would have. Democrats want to extend the benefit at least into next year, saying the government should not cut off income at a time when roughly 30 million people are still receiving some form of unemployment insurance. 

The GOP plan for direct payments largely mirrors the one Congress passed in March as part of a $2 trillion rescue package. It would send up to $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to couples who make less than $198,000. It would also provide $500 per dependent, regardless of age. 

The Republican proposal would not allocate any new aid to states and municipalities, instead giving them more flexibility in how they spend relief money approved earlier this year. House Democrats included nearly $1 trillion in state and local assistance in the bill they passed in May. 

In addition, it calls for liability protections for businesses, doctors and schools except for cases of “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct” as they try to operate during the pandemic. Democrats have generally opposed legal immunity for companies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called the provision a “red line” in discussions.

The negotiations have already taken on a more bitter tone than talks that led to relief packages earlier this year, in part due to the fact that the presidential and Senate elections are just over three months away. 

Biden’s lead narrows 

In the presidential contest, Biden’s lead over Trump has shrunk across the swing states. The new poll shows Biden leading Trump by a 48% to 45% margin among all respondents.

Two weeks ago, he had a 49% to 43% edge. 

The poll released Wednesday finds close races in all six key states: 

  • Arizona: Biden 47%, Trump 45% 
  • Florida: Biden 48%, Trump 45% 
  • Michigan: Biden 46%, Trump 42% 
  • North Carolina: Biden 49%, Trump 46% 
  • Pennsylvania: Biden 48%, Trump 46%
  • Wisconsin: Biden 48%, Trump 43%

— Graphic by CNBC’s John Schoen

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