As the United States prepares for a general election complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, a new national survey finds that most Americans support making it easier to vote by mail in November.
The survey, conducted by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities, also reveals divides based on race, political affiliations and geography.
About 46% of African American respondents said they were more likely to vote in November if offered mail-in ballots. That’s compared to only about a third of white U.S. voters. Other races fell somewhere in between, with Hispanic and Asian Americans at 42% and 41%, respectively.
In the Mountain West, Colorado – which already conducts its elections by mail – ranks near the top in supporting mail-in ballots, whereas neighboring Wyoming is among the four states in the country where a majority of survey respondents did not support making mail-in voting easier. However, researchers point out that there were limited survey responses from Wyoming, leading to a larger-than-usual margin or error.
The West generally stands out in supporting voting by mail. More than 70% of respondents in four states – Oregon, Washington, California and Colorado – would like it to be easier.
Matthew Baum, a Harvard professor who co-authored a report on the survey results, points out a political divide. While most people of either party either supported or didn’t care whether there were mail-in ballots, 32% of Republicans were against it versus 5% of Democrats.
Looking at historically non-partisan use of mail-in ballots, he attributes the disparity to the president’s statements against it.
If mail-in ballots sway tight elections, Baum said, “President Trump has opened the door to a possible line of attack against the outcome if you’re on the losing side – especially, presumably, if you’re a Republican.”
Beyond a partisan divide, Baum also said that those who were more concerned about COVID-19 in the survey were also more likely to support mail-in ballots.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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