For democracy to work, citizens need to have faith that elections are accurate and open. So it’s good news that despite all the unprecedented challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to mail voting, concerns about voter intimidation, and accusations of widespread voter fraud — the 2020 general election passed the test. The vast majority of American voters said they experienced little or no trouble voting and were confident that their vote was counted accurately, according to a new study released today by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group.
The report, “Voices on the Vote: Impediments and Confidence in the 2020 Election,” was written by Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Samantha Goldstein, a research assistant at AEI. Key findings from the survey, conducted online from November 13–December 7, 2020 by YouGov, include the following:
- A vast majority of voters said voting was easy, despite dramatic changes in how people voted. Seventy-three percent of voters said they were confident their vote was accurately counted, although there was a chasm in vote confidence between Trump and Biden voters.
- Voters were more confident that their own vote and votes in their community were accurately counted than they were about votes across the United States. Ninety-one percent of Democrats said votes in the US were counted as intended, compared to 21% of Republicans.
- Out of eight possible impediments to voting, such as problems obtaining a mail ballot or not having the correct identification, none were experienced by more than 3% of Americans nationally.
“While we should always be vigilant about potential threats to our elections, we found that the vast majority of Americans experienced little or no problems voting in 2020,” Bowman said. “Despite all the warnings about a potential nightmare at the polls, state and local election officials ran a remarkably smooth election.”
“The success of the 2020 election process is especially impressive given the substantial shift in voting method,” Goldstein said. “The percentage of voters choosing to vote by mail increased from 25% in 2016 to nearly half (45%) in 2020. Yet strong partisan differences remained.”
The report’s release comes amid debates in Congress and several state legislatures over proposed changes to election laws. The report did not focus on voter registration, a significant point of contention in the current debate, and some of the proposed changes in state laws could make it harder to vote by mail, the method used by a plurality of voters in 2020. However, it is heartening that even in the midst of a pandemic and a fiercely polarized electorate, the vast majority of Democratic, Republican, and independent voters reported no serious issues in casting a ballot.
One problem identified by the data is the racial disparity in the ease of voting in person:
- Almost twice as many Black voters (31%) as white voters (18%) or Hispanic voters (17%) reported waiting 31 minutes or more. Seven percent of white voters, 13% of Black voters, and 8% of Hispanic voters waited more than an hour.
About Democracy Fund Voter Study Group
The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a research collaboration of more than two dozen analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum. Created in the wake of the 2016 election, the Voter Study Group’s goal is to better understand the American electorate by examining and delivering insights on the evolving views of American voters. Research and analysis from Voter Study Group members can be found at www.voterstudygroup.org and on Twitter @democracyfund.