Poll Finds Left and Right Moving Further Apart on Voting Access

A growing number of conservatives oppose automatic voter registration and no-excuse early voting, policies overwhelmingly backed by liberals.

A voter submits a ballot in an official drop box during early voting in Athens, Ga., last October. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

(CN) — Fewer Republicans than Democrats support automatic voter registration and they want narrower eligibility conditions for obtaining absentee ballots, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center.

The nonpartisan polling organization asked 5,109 adults in the U.S. about their opinions on election procedures and compared their results to previous surveys. Their findings released Thursday suggest that the gulf between liberal and conservative Americans is widening on issues of voting access.

At least 80% of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats or as Democrat-leaning independents strongly or somewhat favor automatic registering all eligible citizens to vote, permitting felons to vote after their sentence is served, and allowing voters to vote early and in-person for at least two weeks before Election Day.

Voters line up outside Vickery Baptist Church in Dallas waiting to cast their ballots on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Republican and Republican-leaning independent panelists were not as warm on these ideas. Only 38% of conservatives support automatic voter registration, down from 48% in 2018. Meanwhile, 55% agree that felons should be able to vote and 63%, just shy of two-thirds, support a two-week early voting period — one of the most bipartisan options presented, the results indicate.

Just 38% of Republicans said any voter should be allowed to cast a ballot early without a documented reason – a 19-point drop from 57% in 2018 – compared to 84% of Democrats who support no-excuse early voting.

The majority of Americans agree that Election Day should be a national holiday, Pew researchers found. Of all respondents, 68% supported the idea, including 78% of liberals and 59% of conservatives.

Another suggestion united the poll respondents: paper ballot backups. When asked if they somewhat or strongly favored a requirement that electronic voting machines print paper backups of each ballot, 81% of Democrat-leaning adults said yes; Republicans barely outpaced them, as 86% of the conservative panelists agreed.

Government-issued photo identification was a relatively unpopular requirement in Democrats’ view. Though 61% of liberal respondents support voter ID laws, they are overwhelmingly preferred by Republicans, 93% of whom want all voters to show photo identification to be able to vote.

Only 27% of liberals would like registered adults who have not recently voted or confirmed their registration to be removed from voter lists, while 68% of conservatives support this policy, making it one of the most divisive topics in the survey.

Party demographics weren’t the only predictor of note that the Pew surveyors analyzed. Taking Republican respondents under examination, the researchers found that younger conservatives are more likely than older conservatives to favor policies broadening access to voting.

For instance, while only 32% of Republicans aged 65 and older support automatically registering citizens to vote, the measure enjoys the favor of 46% of Republicans and those leaning Republican between the ages of 18 and 34.

A consistent 80% to 84% of liberals of all ages support automatic voter registration, by contrast.

The survey’s findings complement a Pew survey conducted just after the 2020 presidential election, when just 35% of Trump voters were confident that their votes were counted correctly. Of Biden supporters, 95% believed the November election was well administered.

The poll was conducted online between April 5 and April 11. The figures represent a weighted result based on replies from members of Pew’s American Trends Panel. Poll responses are weighted to correct for population demographics and survey noncoverage. For statistics derived from the full sample of 5,109 respondents, the margin of error is plus or minus 2.1%.

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