More Americans open to voting early, by mail

New Washington Post/University of Maryland/Ipsos poll shows a vast majority would support voting by mail without an excuse, but significant partisan differences on voting behaviors exist

The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, September 10, 2020

According to a new Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, conducted by Ipsos, nearly three-quarters of Americans believe fear of contracting COVID-19 should qualify as a legitimate reason to vote by mail, and a similar number would support their state allowing any eligible citizen to vote by mail this fall. Most are confident their vote in the November presidential election would be counted accurately, but confidence in mail/absentee voting is lower than in-person voting and is split along party lines.

Detailed findings

1. A majority of Americans would prefer to vote before Election Day, and there is widespread support for allowing excuse-free absentee voting.

  • Sixty-one percent of Americans would prefer to vote before Nov. 3. This includes nearly three-quarters of Democrats (73%), compared to half (49%) of Republicans.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans (74%) say that the fear of coronavirus infection should qualify as a reason to vote by mail, and an equal number (73%) would support their state allowing any eligible citizen to vote by mail in the presidential election this fall.
  • Americans are divided on their level of comfort with in-person voting: 52% are comfortable, 47% are not. Republicans are significantly more comfortable with, and preferable toward, in-person voting than Democrats are.

2. Eight in ten Americans are confident their vote this fall will be counted accurately, but confidence in mail-in/absentee voting is significantly lower than in-person voting.

  • Overall, 80% of Americans are confident their vote will be counted accurately this fall, including 84% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans.
  • Ninety percent are confident their ballot would be counted accurately if they voted in person on Election Day, and 86% are confident the same is true if they vote early, but in person. Meanwhile, 65% are confident their ballot would be counted accurately if they voted by mail or absentee.
  •  Democrats and Republicans feel equally confident in in-person voting methods. However, while 78% of Democrats are confident in their absentee ballot being counted accurately, just 55% of Republicans agree.
Confidence by PID


3. Though most think voter fraud and suppression are rare occurrences, most say political campaigns often try to discourage people from voting.

  • Around one-third of Americans believe voter fraud and voter suppression will happen often in the presidential election this fall, while most say it will be a rare or occasional occurrence.
  • A majority of Democrats believe voter suppression will happen often this fall, while Republicans are more likely to view voter fraud as a prevalent threat.
  • Overall, 54% of Americans believe political campaigns try to discourage people from voting by promoting false information about the voting process.

The Washington Post article can be found here

About the Study

This poll was jointly sponsored and funded by The Washington Post, the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and Ipsos. The poll is a random sample of U.S. citizens living in the United States with small oversamples in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The sample was weighted to ensure citizens from oversampled states were represented in accordance with share of the overall U.S. population. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

The questionnaire was administered with the exact questions in the exact order as they appear in this document. Demographic questions are not shown. If a question was asked of a reduced base of the sample, a parenthetical preceding the question identifies the group asked. Phrases surrounded by parentheticals within questions indicate clauses that were randomly rotated for respondents.

Ipsos conducted sampling, interviewing and tabulation for the survey using the KnowledgePanel, a representative panel of adults age 18 and over living in the United States. KnowledgePanel members are recruited through probability sampling methods using address-based sampling. Panel members who do not have internet access are provided with a tablet and internet service.

This survey uses statistical weighting procedures to account for deviations in the survey sample from known population characteristics, which helps correct for differential survey participation and random variation in samples. The overall sample was weighted to match the demographic makeup of citizens age 18 or older in the U.S. by gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, household income, Census region, language proficiency and state groupings for oversampled states according the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and to residents in a metropolitan area according to the Current Population Survey. 

The margin of sampling error for the overall sample including the design effect is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher. Note that sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll.

All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.5. The design effect is a factor representing the survey’s deviation from a simple random sample and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. Surveys that do not incorporate a design effect overstate their precision. 

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025

Kate Silverstein
Media Relations Specialist, US
Public Affairs
+1 718 755-8829    

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs