Results also indicate that a high percentage respondents credit concerns that voter suppression could take place; some respondents indicate worry voter fraud or manipulation is likely to occur
ST. LEO, FL – As the month began, most of the electorate in America and in the politically important state of Florida held confidence in the integrity and security of the country’s voting systems and machines, according to a new survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu). Results also showed that 72.7 percent of respondents nationally and 79 percent of those in Florida said they were confident that the 2020 presidential election would result in a legitimate winner.
The survey collected results from September 27 to October 2 from 1,000 respondents nationally and from a parallel sample of 500 respondents in Florida. The margin of error for the national sample is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points, and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for the Florida sample
The polling institute asked respondents whether they agreed strongly, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed with a number of test statements about the state of the voting process. The statements and responses revealed points of confidence in the system, but also concerns about possible vulnerabilities.
Confidence in functional operations
More respondents than not expressed confidence in the way their individual votes would be handled, that voting systems and machines are secure in the United States, and in the validity of the overall vote count in the presidential election of 2020.
In the national sample, 79.3 percent overall said that have “confidence that my vote will be accurately recorded in my polling place,” with 45.7 percent strongly agreeing and 33.6 percent somewhat agreeing. In Florida, 84.4 percent were confident, as 54 percent strongly agreed and 30.4 percent somewhat agreed.
As for “confidence in the integrity and security of voting machines/systems in this country,” 75.5 percent national respondents expressed confidence, as 34.3 percent strongly agreed and 41.2 percent somewhat agreed. In Florida, 81 percent of respondents showed confidence; 43.2 percent agreed strongly with the test statement and 37.8 percent somewhat agreed.
Another statement tested the “confidence Election 2020 will result in a legitimate winner.” Nationally, 72.7 percent agreed they are confident; 36.9 percent said they strongly agree and 35.8 percent said they somewhat agree. The overall sum showing confidence in Florida was 79 percent of the sample. That reflected the 45.2 percent who said they strongly agree and 33.8 percent who said they somewhat agree.
Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, commented that “In the context of the results to follow, it may seem optimistic that four out of five voters think that we’ll have a legitimate victor, but this perception is extremely important to the functioning of democracy. Trust in the system, despite all of the hazards of 2020, remains high. This underlying confidence in American democracy will be important in accepting the results and moving forward no matter what they are.”
Worries about voter suppression
Although the survey seemed to reflect confidence in elemental parts of the system, the survey results show doubts exist.
One test statement asked respondents to react to this: “Voter suppression and efforts to keep eligible voters from the polls is a real concern and likely to occur.” National results show that 32.6 percent said they strongly agree and 27.8 somewhat agree, for a total of 60.4 percent. It was a concern of more Democrats nationally, as 75.8 percent of Democrats agreed—a result that is 15 percentage points higher than the overall result and 22 percentage points higher than the Republican result. Of GOP respondents, 53 percent registered agreement; of independents, 54.4 percent showed agreement. Also, among African-Americans, 71.4 percent showed agreement with the statement that voter suppression is a concern, while agreement levels among white and Hispanic respondents were nearly even with the overall result, at 59.3 percent and 59.5 percent, respectively.
In Florida, 64.8 percent overall said they agree that voter suppression is a concern, with the breakdown showing that 39.6 said they strongly agree with the statement and 25.2 percent said they somewhat agree. There was a wide gap in agreement levels corresponding to political party affiliation. Of Republican respondents, fewer than half agreed with the statement, at 46.3 percent, a result that is 18.5 percentage points lower than the overall. Of Democratic respondents, 85.8 percent agreed, a result that is 21 percentage points higher than the overall average and 39.5 percentage points higher than the GOP statistic. The result for independents nearly matched the overall average. Of the African-American respondents, 80 percent said they agree with the statement; of Hispanic respondents, 69 percent said they agree with the statement; and of white Florida respondents, 58.1 said they agree.
In the current environment, groups that promote voter registration and voter education consider limited polling places for an area’s geographic or population size, creating long lines and waits to vote, one tactic to suppress voter participation. Another circumstance that is considered burdensome by some organizations has been the creation in various states of strict new photo ID requirements, because it can be expensive and difficult for some voters to get or replace the documents needed to procure the ID.
“It is obviously healthy,” Orlando said, “for voters to be wary of voter suppression, but it’s important that voters don’t think that the process is so difficult that they won’t attempt to vote. What we’re seeing in this poll and in early vote totals is that voters are clearly attempting to overcome voter suppression efforts.”
Responses on voter fraud concerns
The survey also asked respondents to indicate whether they agree or disagree with this statement: “Voter fraud and manipulation of November results is a real concern and likely to occur.” Results show that more than half agreed at the national level. Specifically, 27.2 percent said they strongly agree and 26.7 said they somewhat agree, amounting to 53.9 percent.
In Florida, the results were similar. Thirty (30) percent of those surveyed said they strongly agree and 25.4 percent somewhat agree, for a total of 55.4 percent.
“There’s robust concern among both parties that voter fraud is occurring, but it is difficult to tell what type of fraud they believe may be occurring,” Orlando said. “My guess is that Republicans are more concerned about domestic fraud in the form of ballot harvesting that President Trump has warned about, and Democrats are more concerned about foreign intervention from countries like Russia,” he said.
In ballot harvesting, a third party gets between voters and ballot collection sites. It can be convenient for a voter or some voters to turn their ballots over to a trustworthy individual for delivery to a legitimate site. But it is fraud when a third party deceives voters and tampers with collected ballots or discards then to suppress the turnout for the candidate the voters are thought to support.
Voter frustration and participation
About one-quarter of the national sample, 26.3 percent, said they agree with the statement “This election has me frustrated and wondering if I’ll even vote at all.” The breakdown is 12.3 percent having indicated they strongly agree and 14 percent having said they somewhat agree. This percentage is down from 2016 when the same statement was tested about that election, and 43 percent said that they were in agreement. In Florida, the population who agreed that they were frustrated amounted to 23.8 percent of the sample of 500. That is also lower than the 2016 result from Florida, when 36.8 agreed that they were frustrated and wondered if they might not vote at all.
The comparison tells us that far fewer people are apt to bypass voting in this presidential election, Orlando explained. “It’s interesting that fewer voters are feeling frustrated than in 2016. During a global pandemic, an economic downturn, and everything else that has happened this year, it goes to show just how negative voters felt about their options in 2016,” the political scientist reflected. “This shift seems more in line with Democrats feeling more favorable about Joe Biden than they did about Hillary Clinton.”
Safety considerations & voting plans
The survey also showed that about half the respondents in both cases, 48.9 percent nationally and 55 percent in Florida, strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that they had “personal health and safety concerns over voting in person.”
“Voters clearly want to exercise their political duty while being as safe as seems possible,” Orlando said. “While voting in person should be safe, the fact that so many voters have found different modalities may make Election Day less tense than in years past. It also may mean that exit polls and vote tallies will be handled differently than we are used to.”
Respondents indicated their anticipated voting method on the survey, and the responses were broadly distributed across the methods available. The results are shown in descending order.
- In person on Election Day, Nov. 3 39.3%
- By a mail-in ballot I received/will receive 30.2%
- By early, in-person voting 13. 6%
- Requesting absentee ballot 11. 2%
- Unsure 3.4%
- By a mail-in ballot I received/will receive 37.4%
- In-person on Election Day, Nov. 3 30.2%
- By early, in-person voting 18.6%
- Requesting an absentee ballot 12.0%
- Unsure 1.2%
Orlando observed that “Voters clearly want to exercise their political duty while being as safe as seems possible. While voting in person should be safe, the fact that so many voters have found different modalities may make Election Day less tense than in years past. It also may mean that exit polls and vote tallies will be handled differently than we are used to.”
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from September 27 through October 2, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
The statewide survey was also conducted from September 27 through October 2, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, email@example.com, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.