Pew survey on Elections in America: Concerns Over Security, Divisions Over Expanding Access to Voting

Views of voting access linked to opinion on diversity in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. October 29, 2018 – With a week to go before Election Day, Americans are confident their local election authorities are up to the essential tasks of making sure that elections are run smoothly and that votes are counted accurately. Nearly nine-in-ten (89%) have confidence in poll workers in their community to do a good job, and majorities say the same about local and state election officials, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center.

Yet the public expresses less confidence that elections across the United States will be handled as well as local ones. And Americans are deeply concerned about whether the midterms will be secure from foreign hacking.

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Two years after Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, 67% of Americans say it is very or somewhat likely that either Russia or other foreign governments will try to influence the midterm elections.

Fewer than half (45%) are very or somewhat confident that election systems are secure from hacking, with just 8% saying they are very confident in the security of election systems nationwide.

The survey finds that, despite concerns over election security, Americans have very positive feelings about voting: Fully 91% say voting in elections is “important,” while 68% say that “voting gives people like me some say about how government runs things.”

Among the survey’s major findings:

Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to favor easing the voting process. More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (84%) say “everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote.” By contrast, only about half of Republicans (48%) say this. A similar share of Republicans (51%) think people should have to prove they want to vote by registering ahead of time.

Opinions on easing the voting process also are linked to views of country’s ethnic diversity. Among the roughly one-third of Republicans who say increasing racial and ethnic diversity is a good thing for the U.S., a 57% majority says everything possible should be done to make it easy for all citizens to vote. Among Republicans who view the nation’s increasing diversity negatively, or say it has no effect, fewer than half (43%) favor doing everything possible to make voting easy. A similar gap is evident among Democrats, but large majorities who take a positive view of growing racial and ethnic diversity (87%) – and those who do not (76%) – favor doing everything to make voting easy.

Most favor automatic registration, making Election Day a national holiday. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) favor automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote and making Election Day a national holiday. Most proposals for lowering barriers to voting are divided along partisan lines; for instance, 78% of Democrats favor automatically registering all citizens to vote, compared with 49% of Republicans. There also are wide differences over requiring all voters to show a government-issued ID in order to vote; 91% of Republicans favor this, compared with 63% of Democrats.

Public support for removing inaccurate – not inactive — voter registrations. About three-quarters of Americans (77%) say they favor removing inaccurate and duplicate registrations using automatic methods. At the same time, just 37% support removing people from registration lists if they have not voted recently or confirmed their registration. About twice as many Republicans (53%) as Democrats (24%) favor removing people from registration lists if they have not recently voted or confirmed their registration.

Young people are less likely to say voting is ‘convenient.’ Young people have long been less likely than older adults to vote in elections, especially midterm elections. The new survey finds that young people are more skeptical than older adults about whether voting gives people a voice in government. In addition, young people are less likely to view voting as convenient. Just 50% of adults under 30 say voting is convenient – by far the lowest share of any age group. Among adults 65 and older, 90% say voting is convenient.

State voting rules are seen as fair, but nearly a third say lower-income people have less access. An overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) say the election rules in their state are fair. Yet nearly one-in-five (17%) say black citizens in their state have less access to voting than whites, 27% say Hispanics have less access than whites and 30% say lower-income citizens have less access to voting than middle-income people.

Little confidence in tech companies to prevent election interference. A large majority of the public (76%) – including sizable shares in both parties – say technology companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have a responsibility to prevent misuse of their platforms to influence the midterms. However, just a third (33%) say they are very or somewhat confident that the technology companies will achieve this objective; 66% say they are not too or not at all confident.

The survey was conducted Sept. 24-Oct. 7 among 10,683 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points for results based on the full sample.