New Studies on Voter Attitudes About Vote-by-Mail in Light of COVID-19

Thad Kousser, Seth Hill, Mackenzie Lockhart (UC San Diego), Jennifer Merolla (UC Riverside), and Mindy Romero (USC) have now posted at the links below two working papers analyzing a survey of eligible American voters about their preferences for how they’d like to cast their own ballots and see elections run during the COVID-19 crisis.  These are drafts now under submission to journals, and they welcome any comments or questions at tkousser@ucsd.edu.  

How do Americans Want Elections to be Run During the COVID-19 Crisis? 

Abstract. To inform the vital conversation among the nation’s political leaders, elections administrators, and scholars about how to hold a safe, accessible, and fair election in November, this paper reports how a sample of 5,612 eligible American voters, surveyed April 8-10, want to see the election run during the COVID-19 crisis.  We embed a randomized experiment presenting respondents with truthful summaries of the projections of two teams of scientists about the pandemic.  Our descriptive findings show that four in ten eligible voters would prefer to cast their ballot by mail rather than in person this November and that a majority of respondents favor policies expanding mail voting.  Our experimental findings show that respondents who read the scientific projections were more likely to prefer voting by mail, were more likely to trust that a mail ballot would be counted accurately, and were more likely to favor holding the election entirely by mail.  

Research Brief: Are Voters Polarized Along Party Lines About How to Run Elections During the COVID-19 Crisis?

Abstract. Are voters as polarized as political leaders when it comes to their preferences about how to cast their ballots in November 2020 and their policy positions on how elections should be run in light of the COVID-19 outbreak?  Prior research has shown little party divide on voting by mail, with nearly equal percentages of voters in both parties choosing to vote this way where it is an option.  Has a divide opened up this year in how voters aligned with the Democratic and Republican parties prefer to cast a ballot?  We address these questions by presenting the findings of an online survey of a nationally diverse sample of 5,612 eligible voters, fielded from April 8-10, with an embedded experiment providing treated respondents with scientific projections about the COVID-19 outbreak.  We find an eight-percentage point difference between Democrats and Republicans in their preference for voting by mail in the control group, but this party divide doubles in the treatment group.  We also find that exposure to scientific projections about the outbreak increases support for vote-by-mail legislation and confidence in vote-by-mail election integrity for both Democrats and Republicans. 

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