Voting in the Time of the Coronavirus

A majority of Americans favor their state expanding access to voting by mail, and support for other measures of voting outside the traditional ballot box have increased in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the April 2020 AP-NORC Poll.

With the coronavirus outbreak looming over the upcoming elections in several states, Americans have become increasingly supportive of different ways to cast a ballot that would allow them to avoid polling places on Election Day.  

Fifty-six percent of Americans favor their state allowing people to vote by mail without needing to provide a reason. Just 26% oppose. Although fewer support voting online by submitting their ballot through a website (40% favor and 39% oppose) or conducting elections using only mail-in ballots without any in-person voting (39% vs. 40%), there has been a considerable increase in support for these methods since September 2018.

Asked about support for these same measures for the 2020 presidential election in November in the event the country is still grappling with a coronavirus outbreak, more favor than oppose their state allowing people to vote in person. But, even more favor allowing people to vote by mail without requiring a reason for doing so. Online voting and mail-only voting also enjoy more support than opposition.

Republicans generally prefer in-person voting compared to other methods, while at least half of Democrats prefer other options. 

Although the method of voting in the 2020 presidential election may depend on the state of the coronavirus outbreak, Americans who are more worried about the outbreak are no more likely to favor new methods of voting than those who are less worried.

Although vote-by-mail options are popular, the public has some concerns. Forty-four percent think that voter fraud would be a major problem for mail-only voting, and 38% say the same about voter suppression.

Republicans are more concerned than Democrats that people who are not eligible to vote will do so if allowed to mail in their ballots. Sixty-four percent of Republicans say this would be a major problem, compared to 29% of Democrats. 

The nationwide poll was conducted April 16-20, 2020, using the AmeriSpeak¬ģ Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,057 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.