WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans are much more skeptical than Democrats their ballots will count if cast by mail and less confident they will be able to vote in November’s election if their state switches to all-mail voting, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.
In a sign of the deep partisan divisions around voting by mail sparked by Republican President Donald Trump’s relentless criticism of the practice, the poll found nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans support efforts to expand mail balloting options.
A national push for more use of voting by mail, which Democrats back as a safe way to cast a ballot as long as infection from the highly contagious coronavirus remains a problem, has set off a fierce political battle with Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the method as prone to fraud.
Numerous studies have found little evidence of that, and Trump himself has not offered any. Trump voted by mail in Florida’s primary in March.
The poll found half of Republicans, compared to three-quarters of Democrats, were confident their mail-in vote would be accurately counted. And 67% of Republicans thought they would be able to cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 election if their state switched to voting by mail, compared to 85% of Democrats.
Overall, 59% of Americans believe their state should expand mail-in voting, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted from May 20 to 27. By party, that broke down to 43% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats.
Only 25% of Republicans polled said voting by mail would result in more fair voting, compared to 66% of Democrats.
A number of states have moved to expand their use of absentee mail ballots to protect voters from the coronavirus outbreak, including states with Republican election officials such as Georgia, Iowa and Nevada.
Past studies by election researchers have shown neither party has an advantage in states with a history of mail balloting and where officials automatically mail ballot applications to all registered voters.
Voting-rights advocates have denounced Republican efforts to limit mail-in voting as particularly unfair to minorities and low-income Americans, who tend to vote Democratic and also have been hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak.
Experts say Trump may have created problems for his own party by sowing doubts among its own members about casting absentee ballots if coronavirus is still raging in November, and that depresses in-person turnout.
Those without a college degree were less likely to believe they would be able to get a mail-in ballot cast and counted. About half of those without a college degree believed their mail-in vote would be accurately counted, compared to two-thirds of those with college degrees.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 4,429 American adults, including 3,732 who identified as registered voters. The poll had a credibility interval – a measure of precision – of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Editing by Soyoung Kim and Sonya Hepinstall