TargetSmart Insights - May 7, 2020 - New Data on Impact of Covid-19 on Electorate, Opinions

As we all continue to adjust to a new normal, we’re seeing changes in nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives - how we work, how our kids experience school, and more.

We've been focused on gaining a better understanding of how the coronavirus outbreak will impact this year's elections. In this edition of our newsletter we are focused on two election-related analyses:

A polling snapshot of how the outbreak is influencing views on voting in November, and An early look at the impact of COVID-19 on voter registration trends.

Taken together, these studies are an instructive call to action for progressives and Democrats to make informed decisions, in a time of such rapid change.

Voting During an Outbreak

We recently conducted a nationwide study to see how the outbreak was influencing the public’s views on voting - specifically looking at reforms that will help ensure that voting is safe, secure and accessible.

The results are encouraging: huge majorities of Americans support a broad array of reforms to ensure it is safe to vote come November. Here are some specific takeaways:

  • About as many American voters are concerned that the coronavirus outbreak will prevent citizens from voting in this year’s elections (63% very or somewhat concerned) as express concerns about losing work or income due to the pandemic (61% very or somewhat concerned).
  • A substantial proportion of American voters (46%) are at least somewhat worried that they, or someone in their immediate family, might catch the coronavirus while voting at the place where they usually cast their ballot, while just 1-in-4 American voters (25%) are not worried at all about these dangers.
  • Overwhelming majorities believe it is important for state and local government to provide alternatives to in-person voting (46% very important, 32% somewhat important, 18% not important) and for the federal government to provide additional funding to states and counties to cover the increased costs of conducting elections due to the coronavirus outbreak (45% very important, 32% somewhat important, 18% not important).
  • A near consensus emerges around expanded access to early voting (80% support), expanded access to vote-by-mail (73% support), pre-paid postage for vote-by-mail (74% support) and increasing the number of polling places to minimize lines (80% support).

We’ve made full toplines and crosstabs available so you can dig into the numbers yourself. In the coming weeks we plan to field a similar poll to see how attitudes evolve.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Voter Registration

While it will be some time until we have a full picture of how the crisis has shaped the electorate, an initial picture is emerging. TargetSmart conducted an analysis of the voter files of all 50 states plus Washington, DC to see how registration this cycle compares to 2016. In the ten months preceding the pandemic, voter registration across the country surged compared to the same time period in 2016.

In fact, during this 10-month period, over 5.3 million more Americans registered to vote than did in 2016:

2016 and 2020 election cycles new registration comparison

Unfortunately, preliminary data indicates that that surge was halted as the pandemic spread across the nation in March. In the 13 states that have updated their files through March, we have seen the average number of registrations go from 46,450 in February to 28,001 in March.

2016 and 2020 election cycles new registration comparison in states with data through March 2020

We will continue to keep an eye on these numbers and track how the trends change. In the coming months, we all have our work cut out for us to engage hard-to-reach potential voters who may have already registered had it not been for the pandemic. This is a call to action for all of us to do our part to ensure that citizens have access to the franchise this year.

Thanks as always for taking the time to check out our newsletter. If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for what we should be looking at, just reply to this message.