A majority of overall survey respondents said they support voting entirely by mail, but Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to back the change.
(CN) — As Americans navigate their upended daily lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, two-thirds expect the crisis to disrupt the presidential election in November, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.
In a survey of 4,917 adults between April 7 and 12, 67% of respondents said it was at least somewhat likely that the coronavirus outbreak will affect the Nov. 3 election, including 50% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats.
Though a majority of Americans nonetheless expected the presidential election to be fair, accurate and accessible, the averages belied a significant partisan schism. While 59% overall said that the election will be conducted fairly and accurately, the average was derived from a 75% majority of Republicans and a 46% plurality of Democrats.
Similarly, a 63% majority felt that all citizens who want to vote will be able to do so, which was averaged between 87% of Republicans and only 43% of Democrats.
Most Americans also said they support election rule changes to allow voting by mail and automatic registration, which has risen since the 2018 midterm elections. Fifty-two percent of overall respondents support vote-by-mail elections, up from 34% in 2018. This bump came primarily from Democrats, who went from 40% support in 2018 to 69% in the latest survey. Though less than one-third of Republicans support voting entirely by mail, their support jumped from 26% to 32% in the last two years.
Republicans were more receptive to a laxer policy that would give voters the choice between voting in person and voting by mail. Forty-nine percent of Republicans supported the choice to vote by mail if they want to, rather than having everyone vote that way.
A majority of Republicans also supported automatic registration, up to 53% from 49% in 2018. Inversely, Democrats were largely opposed to removing inactive voters from registration lists at 24%, unchanged from 2018. Republican support for voter purges rose from 53% to 63% in the last two years.
Despite broad overall support for voting by mail, Republican men were the only measured demographic that has not risen in support at 24%. In contrast, support for absentee voting rose the most among Democratic men from 41% in 2018 to 71% in the latest survey.
Some states have already gotten a taste of coronavirus-driven challenges at the ballot box.
Wisconsin held in-person voting for its presidential primary on April 7 after a partisan fight between Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who sought to delay the vote, and Republican state lawmakers, who successfully challenged the governor’s postponement. State health officials have reported at least 19 people were exposed to the coronavirus by visiting polling places that day.
In contrast, the state of New York canceled the Democratic presidential primary entirely, citing about spreading Covid-19 in the state where the disease has hit hardest as well as former Vice President Joe Biden’s uncontested status after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8.
After the Wisconsin election, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to address challenges in the 2020 election posed by Covid-19, including by allowing all eligible voters to cast their ballot by mail.
Sonia Gill, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, said in a statement that the “coronavirus shouldn’t be a political issue.”
“The Wisconsin fiasco underscores the need for swift congressional action to allow eligible voters to cast their ballots safely — without it, voters will be forced to choose between casting their ballots and protecting their health,” Gill said.
Looking ahead to November, Tuesday’s Pew poll found that 79% of overall respondents said it is important for the losing candidate to publicly acknowledge the winner as legitimate, up from 74% in 2016.
But while 83% of Democrats said it was important for the loser to public concede to the winning candidate in 2016, that number fell to 76% in the latest survey. In contrast, 84% of Republicans said the same int his year’s poll, compared to 65% four years ago.