UMass Amherst/WCVB Poll Finds Wide Support for a Slate of Reforms to Make Voting Easier, as Well as Enacting Voter ID Requirements

Half of Americans surveyed worry about potential voter fraud, two-thirds find Georgia law prohibiting giving food or water to voters as unnecessary, and nearly half think sports leagues should stay out of politics
Tatishe Nteta
Tatishe Nteta
Raymond La Raja
Raymond La Raja
Jesse Rhodes
Jesse Rhodes
Alexander Theodoridis
Alexander Theodoridis

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll

AMHERST, Mass. – A new nationwide University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB poll released today finds that Americans support a wide variety of election reforms, including both those that make voting easier, but also enacting voter ID requirements.

“From automatic registration to making the option to vote by mail a permanent fixture of American elections, clear majorities of Americans favor making voting easier in the United States,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll.

“There is something for both Republicans and Democrats to like – or hate – from what Americans think about electoral reform,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “To the chagrin of Democratic officials, the most popular reform is to require all voters to show ID to vote, with 67% of voters supporting this, and roughly a majority saying they strongly support it. It is most popular with Republicans, with an overwhelming 94% supporting it, compared to 71% of Independents and 45% of Democrats. On the other hand, voters love a basket of reforms pushed by Democrats – overall, 57% favor making it a permanent option to vote by mail, 61% want Election Day to be a national holiday and 60% favor allowing former felons to vote after serving time.”

“Requiring photo ID in order to vote is quite popular with the public, enjoying majority support across age, education, income and racial groups,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “Only Democrats, liberals and Biden voters express opposition to the idea. A major source of popular support for this policy is the understandable – but incorrect – belief that access to photo ID is essentially universal. In fact, many people, particularly the unemployed, homeless, those without easy access to transportation, and frequent movers, lack access. Still, popular belief that photo ID is widely accessible underlies broad support for a policy that makes it harder to vote.”

“While studies have shown that the groups most directly affected by voter identification laws are young people and people of color, it is somewhat shocking that both groups overwhelmingly favor requiring that voters show government issued identification in order to vote on Election Day,” Nteta says. “However, with African Americans and Latinos disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated in the United States, it comes as no surprise that both these groups overwhelmingly support restoring voting rights to felons who have served their sentences.”

The poll of 1,000 respondents conducted April 21-23 found that a bare majority of Americans (51%) think that it is more important to prevent fraud in elections, even if it makes it harder to vote. One-third of respondents (32%) oppose this approach, while 17% are unsure.

“Given the rhetoric around the “Stop the Steal” movement by many Republican officials, the big splits are between partisans, with 88% of Republicans saying it is okay to make voting harder compared to just 22% of Democrats,” La Raja says. “Republican opinion might also be linked to the widespread belief that Democrats are the party that benefits more from higher turnout – 44% believe this, while 41% of voters are unsure who it benefits and only 11% thinks it helps the Republicans.”

“This belief that making voting easier always helps Democrats in elections is not strongly supported by evidence,” Rhodes notes. “In fact, the partisan effects of making voting easier are complicated and uncertain, with neither party clearly benefitting across the board.”

“Many Americans are worried about voter fraud, though these concerns are felt most acutely among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters,” Rhodes says. “There’s no empirical evidence pointing to voter fraud as a problem. However, for more than a decade, Republican politicians – most recently led by former President Donald Trump – have stoked racial and immigration anxieties about voter fraud to fire up their supporters. As we have seen, these false beliefs are incredibly corrosive for our democracy. Most notably, many of those who engaged in insurrection against the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were motivated by the false belief that voter fraud was responsible for Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.”

“Party elites have staked out very clear contrasting positions on election reform, with Democrats seeking to make voting as easy as possible and Republicans pushing for measures ostensibly designed to reduce fraud,” says Alexander Theodoridis, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “In general, rank-and-file partisans have received the memo.”

La Raja notes that the poll found one election reform issue Americans could agree upon. “Voters across both parties appear to think it is ridiculous not to be allowed to offer food or water while they are waiting in line to vote,” he says of the recent law passed in Georgia. “Sixty-seven percent oppose any bans on doing this, with a majority of 53% saying they strongly oppose this policy. I don’t think Americans feel voters will change their ballot after getting a bottle of water and bag of potato chips.”

The poll also asked respondents about their views of corporations and sports leagues expressing political opinions.

“Shut up and dribble?” Nteta asks, referring to the oft-repeated statement by conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham toward LeBron James in 2018. “In response to the controversial law passed in Georgia, Major League Baseball has moved their All-Star Game and Draft out of the state. A plurality of Americans (48%) believe that the MLB and professional leagues in general should stick to sports and stay out of politics.”

Conversely, 50% of the poll’s respondents said they “have no problem” with corporations such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and Dell expressing their opinions on political issues. Three-quarters of Republicans and majorities of independents object to either sports leagues or businesses expressing opinions about or interjecting themselves into politics.

Finally, the poll looked toward 2022 and asked respondents their views of the next midterm elections.

“Though we are still in the early days of the Biden Administration, Democrats appear to have an advantage right now on the congressional ballot,” La Raja says. “Forty-five percent say they would vote for the Democrat in their district compared to 38% for Republicans, and 17% are undecided.

“The numbers are identical on the Senate side,” he adds.

Methodology

This University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll of 1,000 respondents nationwide was conducted April 21-23 by YouGov. YouGov interviewed 1,151 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1,000 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from the full 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) one-year sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacements, using the person weights on the public use file.

The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, years of education, and region. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.

The weights were then post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories) and education (4-categories) to produce the final weight.

The margin of error within this poll is 3.4%.

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll

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