UMD-Post Poll: Americans Prefer Not to Pack Polls on Election Day

UMD-Post Poll: Americans Prefer Not to Pack Polls on Election Day

More than 60% of Americans prefer to vote in advance of Election Day, and fewer than half intend to cast a ballot in person, according to a new University of Maryland-Washington Post poll conducted by Ipsos and released today.

The poll, which surveyed a random national sample of 1,929 adult U.S. citizens from Aug. 24– 31, found heightened worries about the health risks of in-person voting during the coronavirus crisis and whether mailed ballots would be counted. 

“We were already seeing a trend toward voting before Election Day, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated that,” said Michael Hanmer, a government and politics professor and co-director of the poll. “Part of the reason is concern about contracting the virus, but I also think it’s about having a sense of control: Choosing to vote early is one way people can exert control during this chaotic time when so much is out of our hands.”

An overwhelming majority (74%) of respondents said anyone worried about contracting COVID-19 should be allowed to cast a ballot through the mail, with a large partisan split: 93% of Democrats, 51% of Republicans and 78% of independents are in favor of the idea. However, only 65% of Americans are confident that votes sent by mail will be counted accurately, compared to 90% confidence with voting in person on Election Day.

Meanwhile, roughly a third of people polled said they thought voter fraud will occur very or somewhat often in the 2020 presidential general election, but the results showed a deep partisan divide: Republicans were much more likely (54%) to indicate they were concerned about fraud compared to Democrats (19%) and independents (30%).

“There is a huge mismatch between beliefs about voter fraud and social science evidence about fraud, which shows it is exceedingly rare,” Hanmer said. “These results demonstrate that partisanship and messaging from the White House have taken hold, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out as we get closer to November.” 

Despite efforts by leaders like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and UMD President Darryl Pines to recruit more polling workers at the state level, Americans overall seem reluctant to serve in this capacity, the poll found. Only one-third of all respondents said they would be willing to volunteer as a poll worker; results were strongly associated with fears of contracting COVID-19. Among those who indicated they were very worried about becoming infected, 25% said they would be willing to be a poll worker; that number climbed to 47% among those not at all worried about getting sick from COVID-19. Overall, 60% said they were worried about themselves or an immediate family member catching the coronavirus, down slightly from 65% in a survey taken earlier in August.

The poll, which has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and The Washington Post using Ipsos’s nationally representative KnowledgePanel. Read more about the poll and its analysis.

(Original news story written by Sara Gavin)

Illustration: iStock

September 10, 2020


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