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America's electorate is increasingly polarized along partisan lines about voting by mail during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Author(s): Lockhart, Mackenzie
  • Hill, Seth J
  • Merolla, Jennifer
  • Romero, Mindy
  • Kousser, Thad
  • et al.
Abstract

Are voters as polarized as political leaders when it comes to their preferences about how to cast their ballots in November 2020 and their policy positions on how elections should be run in light of the COVID-19 outbreak? Prior research has shown little party divide on voting by mail, with nearly equal percentages of voters in both parties choosing to vote this way where it is an option. Has a divide opened up this year in how voters aligned with the Democratic and Republican parties prefer to cast a ballot? We address these questions with two nationally diverse, online surveys fielded from April 8 to 10 and June 11 to 13, of 5,612 and 5,818 eligible voters, respectively, with an embedded experiment providing treated respondents with scientific projections about the COVID-19 outbreak. We find a nearly 10 percentage point difference between Democrats and Republicans in their preference for voting by mail in April, which had doubled in size to nearly 20 percentage points in June. This partisan gap is wider still for those exposed to scientific projections about the pandemic. We also find that support for national legislation requiring states to offer no-excuse absentee ballots has emerged as an increasingly polarized issue.

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