November 2020

AP VoteCast is a modern, innovative survey of the American electorate conducted in all 50 states that was designed to tell the story of the election. VoteCast debuted for the 2018 midterm elections after years of testing and development. In 2020, VoteCast surveyed voters and non-voters in 17 states during the Democratic Presidential Primary and in all 50 states during the general election.

Since the 1960s, media organizations have used exit polls to tell the story of elections, to better understand which populations are voting for what types of candidates and policies, and to serve as a hub in our decentralized election system for synthesizing information and insights for the public. The original methodology for exit polls involved in-person interviews as voters leave the polling place. This method has remained fundamentally unchanged even as elections have seen significant changes in the way people vote. For example, in 2016 over 40 percent of ballots were cast early, absentee, or by mail, and this figure is on the rise.

VoteCast was designed by NORC at the University of Chicago and The Associated Press to overcome these challenges and provide a new approach to understanding elections. Using a random, probability-based sample of registered voters to carefully calibrate a very large sample from opt-in, online panels, VoteCast delivers the best of both methods – the accuracy of probability-based surveys combined with the scale provided by an opt-in survey that interviews tens of thousands people quickly. Because VoteCast is not based on in-person interviews at the polling booth, it is able to capture the opinions of both people who vote and registered voters who decided not to cast a ballot. It also provides results in every state holding a statewide election, which means VoteCast delivers a broader portrait of the American electorate than any other election survey.

During the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary, VoteCast completed over 47,000 interviews with registered voters across 17 states covering six different election days. Data collection began six days before each primary and ran through poll close in each state. VoteCast was conducted in: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Alabama, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois.

In the 2020 general election, VoteCast completed more than 130,000 interviews with registered voters between October 26 and November 3, concluding as polls closed on Election Day. AP VoteCast delivered data about the presidential election in all 50 states, as well as all Senate and governors’ races in 2020.

Not only did the 2020 surveys complete a massive number of interviews in a short turnaround, their results were comprehensive and accurate when compared with key benchmarks. Because of their confidence in the data, both The Associated Press and Fox News used the data to call race outcomes and to explain the mood of the electorate in their election-night coverage.

AP and NORC are committed to transparency of VoteCast’s methods and results, as well as the continual improvement of the VoteCast methodology over time.

Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (November, 2020). “AP VoteCast 2020.” []

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Trevor Tompson

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Jennifer Benz

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David Sterrett

Senior Research Scientist
Public Affairs and Media Research
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