Two New Reports: “Is there a Partisan Divide over Voting by Mail in California’s November 2020 Election?”; “How Do Californians Want to Cast their Ballots During the COVID-19 Crisis?”

New report from Thad Kousser, University of California, San Diego; Mindy Romero, California Civic Engagement Project at University of Southern California;Mackenzie Lockhart, University of California, San Diego; Seth Hill, University of California, San Diego; Jennifer Merolla, University of California, Riverside

Key findings:

• When we asked eligible voters how they wanted to cast their ballots this November, we found no significant divide between the parties. More than half of eligible voters in both parties prefer to cast a ballot by mail, with nearly another two in ten voters preferring to drop off a ballot that has been automatically sent to them in the mail.
• A move to conducting elections entirely through mail ballot voting in California would be unlikely to tilt the balance in favor of either major party, with nearly identical percentages of Democrats (2.8%) and Republicans (2.7%) saying that they would not participate in this type of election.
• Gaps of eight to twelve percentage points emerge between the parties over support for policies that move toward voting by mail, though there is still a strong consensus supporting these changes among all partisan groups.

Second report:

Just over half (52%) of California eligible voters prefer to mail in their ballot in the upcoming election, while another 18% prefer to use a mail ballot but drop it off at a vote center or drop box. As a whole, California’s eligible voters plan to vote by mail more than ever before in November 2020. Voting by mail is the method that gives them the most confidence in the integrity of election results, and they are strongly supportive of policies that expand access to voting by mail.


The level of support for voting by mail differs across California’s diverse racial and ethnic groups. Consistent with past studies, our survey found that Latino and African-American eligible voters are generally less likely to prefer this method of voting than non-Latino whites and Asian Americans. It will be important to consider the potentially disparate impacts that any election administration changes could bring and to conduct broad outreach efforts.


When presented with scientific projections predicting a fall peak in the impact of COVID-19, eligible voters were even more likely to prefer voting by mail and to express concerns about waiting in line or working at a polling place that did not adhere to social distancing protocols. Specifying a set of social distancing guidelines for in-person voting resolved these concerns for many eligible voters of all types.

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