Pew Study Suggests Ticket-Splitting Will be Almost Nonexistent on Election Day

October 22, 2020 by Dan McCue
Long lines already had formed as early voting began Tuesday at Ben Hur Shrine Center in North Austin, Texas. (Ken Herman/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Consider it another sign of an increasing partisan divide — heading into the final week of the 2020 election cycle, only 4% of registered voters in states with a Senate contest say they will support Donald Trump or Joe Biden and a Senate candidate from the opposing party.

That’s just one of the findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center, which looked at the prevalence of split-ticket voting and how it compares to 2016.

Pew’s researchers found that when it comes to voting for both House and Senate candidates, partisanship prevails.

About eight-in-ten voters (78%) said they will vote (or already have voted) for either former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic House candidate or Trump and the Republican candidate in their congressional district.

Similarly, among those living in states with Senate races, the largest share of voters say they plan to vote for both Biden and the Democratic Senate candidate (42%) or Trump and the Republican Senate candidate (38%) in their state.

A recent analysis of U.S. Senate elections since 2012 shows how rare it is for a Senate race to diverge from a state’s votes in presidential elections. In 139 regular and special elections for the Senate since 2012, 88% have been won by candidates from the same party that won the state’s most recent presidential contest.

Only 4% of registered voters who participated in the poll conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 said they plan to vote for Biden and the Republican candidate for their House District or Donald Trump and the Democratic House candidate.

Pew researchers said this finding is little changed from four years ago. It is more common for voters to say they plan to vote for a third-party candidate for president (or less commonly, for the House) and a major-party candidate for the other race.

Still, only 6% of voters say they plan to cast their ballots this way.

Majorities of every major demographic group in the electorate are voting for the same party’s candidate in the presidential election and the congressional election in their district.

The share of voters in any major demographic group that casts a ballot for both a Republican and a Democratic candidate in these elections is usually less than 5% across major demographic groups.

Straight-ticket voting mirrors presidential voting patterns. Men are more likely than women to vote for Republican candidates in both the House and presidential elections, while women are more likely to support Democratic candidates in both.

White voters are substantially more likely than voters of other racial and ethnic backgrounds to vote for Republican candidates in both the congressional and presidential elections.

Among all registered voters, Democrats hold an edge in congressional elections, with 46% of voters saying they will vote (or have already voted) for the Democratic candidate in their district and 40% saying they support the Republican candidate. About one-in-ten voters (11%) are not sure whom they will support.

The analysis of split-ticket voting was based on a national survey of 11,929 U.S. adults, including 10,543 registered voters in which Biden garnered support from 52% of registered voters and Trump was supported by 42%.

The survey used information about respondents’ locations to present survey-takers with the names of the candidates running in each congressional race.

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