Swing State Voters Support Vote-By-Mail Despite Concerns

August 4, 2020 by Dan McCue
In this July 7, 2020, photo a woman wearing gloves drops off a mail-in ballot at a drop box in Hackensack, N.J. After months of hearing President Donald Trump denigrate mail-in balloting, Republicans in the critical battleground state now find themselves far behind Democrats in the perennial push to urge their voters to vote remotely. While Democrats have doubled the number of their voters who've asked for a mail ballot compared to 2016, Republicans have only increased by about 20% since the same time. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

WASHINGTON – Roughly half of voters in the battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania have health concerns due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and would prefer to vote by mail in the November election, according to a new poll.

The same is true of 53% of voters in Florida, which has been particularly hard hit by the resurgent virus this summer.

However, a substantial number of voters in all three states, mostly driven by a glaring partisan split in attitudes towards mail-in ballots, are concerned that having expanded vote-by-mail will increase the opportunity for voter fraud.

“The partisan split between Trump and Biden voters ripples through every aspect of this poll when it comes to attitudes toward the coronavirus and voting by mail,” said Dave Metz of FM3 Research, the nationally-recognized Democratic polling firm that conducted the research with BaughmanMerrill, the Democratic direct mail political consulting firm.

“Trump’s heated rhetoric that vote-by-mail will lead to fraud and unfairly advantage Democrats in this election created deep partisan divisions on views of what has traditionally been a non-ideological issue,” Metz said.

Among other things the researchers found was that President Donald Trump’s negative rhetoric about voting by mail — he has repeatedly suggested its widespread use could lead to voter fraud — could actually reduce the GOP vote in the upcoming election.

Fifteen percent of self-described Trump voters in Florida, 10% of Trump voters in Michigan, and 12% of Trump voters in Pennsylvania all said they are less likely to vote in November if they receive a ballot in the mail.

Significantly, these were all states he won in 2016 by 1% or less.

The findings could be one reason why Trump dramatically changed his tune on one of those states on Tuesday.

Last week the president suggested delaying the November election — something he has no power to do — as he levelled attacks on mail-voting.

But on Tuesday, he tweeted, “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” Trump tweeted. “Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA.”

Overall the researchers found that voters have positive reactions to expanding vote-by-mail.

A majority of voters in the three states agree that voting by mail has fewer health risks than voting in person, is easy, and safe.

But the poll found a deep partisan divide in all other aspects of these swing state voter’s perspectives and attitudes of vote-by-mail.

A firm 90% of Trump voters believe having all voters vote by mail will increase the opportunity for voter fraud, while only 20% of Biden voters expressed similar concerns.

Additionally 76% of Trump voters think that having all voters vote by mail is risky, while nearly all Biden voters think it would be safe (91%) and secure (86%).

When asked if one party or another would be advantaged by universal voting-by-mail, 62% of Republicans said it would advantage Democrats, while 65% of Democrats said it would not give an advantage to either party.

“While the President may delight in his ability to influence the attitudes and opinions of his base, he may be his own worst enemy when it comes to vote-by-mail,” said Katie Merrill, national campaign director at BaughmanMerrill.

“In these three key swing states of Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania where he lost by 1 percent or less, he cannot afford to lose any Republican votes, and right now 10-15% of his supporters are saying they may not vote if they have to vote by mail,” she said.

Democrats are much more likely to say that receiving a ballot in the mail would make them more likely to vote – 53% say so, compared to 35% of independents and just 21% of Republicans.

In fact, GOP skepticism of voting by mail runs so deep that 10% of Republicans in the three states say they would be less likely to vote if they automatically received a ballot in the mail.

This dynamic could pose some obvious challenges for Trump.

Fifty-five percent of Biden voters say they are more likely to cast a ballot if they receive one in the mail, and less than 1% are less likely to vote; 15% of Trump voters in Florida, 10% of Trump voters in Michigan, and 12% of Trump voters in Pennsylvania say they are less likely to vote.

Among the other findings of the poll were that:

  • Swing state voters are overwhelmingly concerned about the health effects of the coronavirus with 70% viewing the pandemic as an extremely or very serious problem. Eighty-nine percent said the economic impacts of the coronavirus were an extremely or very serious problem;
  • Trump’s approval ratings in all three states are abysmal. In Florida, his net favorability rating is -11 points, 44% favorable to 55% unfavorable. His net favorability rating in Michigan is -13 points, 43%-56%. In Pennsylvania his net favorable is – 12 points, 44-56%;
  • In a four-way matchup with President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Green and Libertarian candidates, Trump is down by eight points in Florida (40% Trump, 48% Biden); eight points in Michigan (39% Trump, 47% Biden) and three points in Pennsylvania (42% Trump, 45% Biden); and
  • Despite the frequent criticism directed its way by President Trump, 85% of voters in the three swing states view the US Postal Service favorably.

The poll was conducted from June 30-July 20, 2020 with an online sample of 2,596 likely voters drawn from voter registration files. The margin of error is +/-1.9%.

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