Center study finds huge gaps in views based on political beliefs on alternatives to traditional voting; half want changes in political conventions

A majority of Americans say national elections need to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including broad support for voting by mail and online political conventions, reports a new study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The study also found major differences in views among liberals and conservatives about the American political process.

The findings on proposed changes in the political process were produced in the second study in the Center’s comprehensive project on the social impact of the coronavirus, conducted during the fourth week of June.

Americans want changes in voting methods and political conventions

The study found 16% of Americans say conventions should be held “as usual.” A majority of Americans believe the national political conventions should change: 51 percent say the conventions should either be held completely online (44%) or not at all (7%).

Statistically identical percentages of Americans support voting by mail (65%) and traditional polling places (64%). Forty-four percent want voting online.

“Americans overall make no distinction between voting in person in a polling booth or voting by mail,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the USC Center for the Digital Future. “But based on political affiliation, we found dramatic differences in views about who should vote, and where they should vote.”

When asked for views about alternatives to traditional voting, 65% of Americans said “anything that gets more people to vote is a good thing.”

Huge liberal-conservative gap

The study also found large differences between liberals and conservatives about the future of elections.

When asked about voting by mail, 84% of liberals agree compared to 45% of conservatives. When asked about “anything that gets more people to vote is a good thing,” 87% of liberals agree – more than twice the percentage of conservatives who support that view (39%).

And while 38% overall are concerned about fraud when voting by mail, nearly three times as many conservatives (62%) as liberals (22%) are concerned.

The Coronavirus Disruption Project

The first round of the Center’s Coronavirus Disruption Study, released April 29, revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and personal behavior since the COVID-19 pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.

The second round of the study, conducted June 19-26, added new questions about political behavior and compared views about changes in working from home, online education, media and entertainment, shopping behavior, and political outlooks.

The findings are based on the results of surveys of 1,000 respondents conducted in English from an online panel, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

August 12, 2020