The topic of mail-in voting has been top news lately, with Democrats touting its benefits early in the pandemic while some Republicans, President Trump in particular, insisted that the method is rife with fraud, a claim with no evidence to support it. Then came the report of recent cost-cutting measures by the U.S. Postal Service, just as record numbers of voters are expected to send their ballots via mail.
A group of researchers at the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES) has looked into how much support for voting by mail (VBM) was impacted by the pandemic, partisanship, and efforts by partisan elites to politicize discussion about expanding the use of VBM in November.
The new research by Stephen Pettigrew and Sarah Lentz, along with PORES Faculty Director John Lapinski and PORES fellow Josh Clinton, shows that in April bipartisan support for voting by mail fell sharply after just six weeks because Republicans appeared to be less worried about catching COVID-19 and became more opposed to the method of voting.
“The pandemic originally increased public support for expanding VBM to help combat the spread of COVID-19, creating a relatively unique opportunity to examine the public’s willingness to reconsider how elections are administered,” the group says in its findings. “But decreasing COVID-19 concerns among Republicans and increased opposition among unconcerned Republicans (perhaps due to increased partisan messaging) has combined to increase partisan divisions in otherwise historically high levels of public support for VBM.”
Penn Today spoke with Pettigrew and Lentz about the research, what they found surprising, and what it could mean come November.