How to Talk About The Counting of Votes

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted October 15-19, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Six in ten plan to vote before Election Day, up 9 points in the last three weeks.
  • A majority of Americans feel a second Trump term will divide the country even further, while a plurality say a Biden presidency will heal some of the country’s divisions.
  • Among those who have mixed feelings on Trump, many are concerned Trump and Republicans’ handling of the election could lead to violence.

One in Five Report Having Already Voted and Most Who Haven’t Intend to Vote Early In Person or By Mail

Just a third of Americans intend to vote in person on Election Day, while a majority report having already voted, or intend to vote by mail or in person before Election Day.

  • White college-educated Americans (26%), Biden voters (26%), and Americans 65+ (35%) are the most likely to have already voted, while Trump voters (11%) and 18-44 year-olds (12%) are least likely.

Six in Ten Now Plan to Vote Before Election Day

One in three plan to vote on Election Day, with nearly two in three planning to vote before then by various methods.

  • Overall, there has been a 9-point jump since September 29 in the share who plan to vote before Election Day. Among Americans 65 years old and above, there has been a 12-point jump.

Among Those Who Have Already Voted, Most Report Having Done So By Mail

With a total of 19% reporting having already voted, 15% say they have done so by mail.

  • Among Americans 65 and older, 30% say they have already voted by mail, as compared to 8% of 18-44 year- olds and 13% of 45-64 year-olds.

Public Remains Largely Split on Who They Anticipate Winning the Election

While the vast majority of Biden voters think the former vice president will probably win, Trump voters are more likely to say the president will “definitely” be re-elected.

  • Independents continue to be evenly split on who they expect will win the election (50% Biden/50% Trump).

Few Biden or Trump Voters Interact Much With Supporters of the Opposing Candidate

Just one in five Trump voters and Biden voters each say “nearly all” or “a fair amount“ of the people they interact with in daily life are voting for the opposing candidate.

  • While Biden voters are more likely to say they interact with Trump voters in the Midwest and West, Trump voters are much more familiar with Biden voters in the West and Northeast.

While Majority Say Second Trump Term Will Divide Country Even More, Plurality Say Biden Will Heal Country’s Divisions

More than two in five say that a Joe Biden presidency will heal some of the country’s divisions and make people more united, while less than a quarter say the same of a second Trump term.

  • Among independents, while 31% say a Biden presidency will unite the country, only 18% say the same of Trump.

Overwhelming Majority Say They Will Be Glad to See the Presidential Election Campaign Over

Across party lines and regardless of intended vote choice, Americans say they will be glad to see the presidential election end.

Two in Three Expect It Will Take Longer Than a Day to Know the Results of the Presidential Election

A majority across party lines continue to say it will take longer than a day to know who won the presidential election with just one in four saying we will know on election night or the day after.

  • Both Biden voters (66%) and Trump voters (68%) expect it will take longer than a day to know the results.

Americans Convinced By Several Arguments for Being Patient With Election Results

Majorities find a range of messages to be “very convincing” reasons to be patient in awaiting election results in November, though just under half find a message about voter suppression “very convincing.”

Vast Majorities Support Taking the Time Needed to Count Votes Rather than Trying to Rush Results

More than seven in ten think it is more important to take the time needed to count every vote, even if it means results are delayed. Mention of errors in counting too quickly drives up support for taking the time to count every vote.

    • Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to support taking the time needed to count.

Biden and Trump Voters Each Agree It Is Most Important the Election Results Are Accurate

More than seven in ten Trump and Biden voters say that it is more important that the results of the election are entirely accurate, no matter who wins, while just three in ten say it is more important their candidate of choice ultimately wins.

Americans Look to TV News to Explain Election Results

Across parties, the number one source of information about election results is national TV news channels, with online sources and campaigns far behind.

      • One in three Republicans plan to use Trump and his campaign as a resource for results (33%) and 29% of Democrats plan to use Biden and his campaign as a resource.

Majorities Remain Confident in the November Election

Nearly four in five are confident that their ballot will be counted accurately in November, and nearly as many say the same about the election overall.

      • While 81% of Biden voters are confident the results of the election will be counted correctly, only 58% of Trump voters say the same. On their personal ballot, 86% of Biden voters and 70% of Trump voters feel confident.

Americans Have Consistently Been More Concerned About Voter Suppression than Voter Fraud

While a plurality of Americans are more concerned about voter suppression, nearly two in five are more concerned about voter fraud.

      • While 69% of Biden voters are more concerned about voter suppression, 67% of Trump voters are more concerned about voter fraud.

Americans Conflicted About Trump Especially Worried His Words Will Inspire Post-Election Violence