Voters favor accuracy over speed on election night — and fear violence after
There's polling about more than just battleground horse races in the campaign's final days. Two new surveys capture the level of apprehension and anxiety in the days before a historically contentious and complicated presidential election.
In one poll, overwhelming bipartisan majorities of voters in six swing states said they would prefer to wait for a reliably accurate count than to know the winner on Tuesday night. President Trump reiterated Wednesday he does not share this view.
In the second, almost all Americans expressed concerns about violence after the election gets called, especially if the loser declines to concede and alleges fraud. Trump has signaled repeatedly he believes the only way he can lose is because of his baseless expectation of widespread absentee ballot fraud.
Secure Democracy, a nonprofit advocating for secure and fair elections, released its swing state survey Wednesday. The report gauged voters' feelings about how the election is being conducted and how votes will be counted. There was little variance in the responses from Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have a combined 91 electoral votes on the line that remain too close to call.
More than 8 in 10 voters in each state — where millions of votes have already been cast by mail or in person — professed confidence the election was being conducted in a way that would produce an accurate count. Between three-quarters and four-fifths in each said having an accurate ballot count was more important than declaring a winner in the hours after the polls close.
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Along those same lines, most voters said they don't expect election officials to finish counting ballots until after Election Day. A majority also said it would be understandable, rather than problematic, if it took longer to tabulate results this year.
"Getting this right is worth the wait, and voters overwhelmingly want to see votes counted accurately and fully accounted for before a final call is made," said Sarah Walker, director of state and federal affairs for Secure Democracy.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has said he's willing to wait to know his future until all valid votes are tabulated, which could take days because many states permit absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day to arrive late and still count.
Trump does not see it that way. "It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on Nov. 3 instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate," he told reporters as he left the White House on Tuesday for more campaign rallies, adding incorrectly: "I don't believe that that's by our laws."
The second survey, released by the civic engagement nonprofit More in Common USA on Tuesday, was the latest to analyze perceptions of the risk of election violence.
While voters of both parties were nearly unanimous in rejecting physical attacks as a justifiable response if they come to view the election was stolen, almost half of Democrats and Republicans alike believe the other side is willing to condone violence in such a situation.
Republicans were slightly but clearly more worried about Democratic violence if Biden wins than the other way around.
GOP respondents predicted more than three in five Democrats would justify confronting Trump supporters online or in person after the former vice president loses, and more than half their opponents would condone property destruction or physical attacks.
Democrats say that, if the president is denied reelection, they expect three fifths of his GOP allies will call for confrontation of Biden's fans — but slightly less than half of them predicted Trump's people will destroy property or become physically dangerous.
Despite these beliefs, 96 percent of Democrats and 97 percent of Republicans rejected those types of responses.
"This is not to say Americans should ignore the threat of election related violence. We must take these threats seriously — 3 percent or 4 percent of people justifying such violence is still unacceptably high," More in Common's report concluded. "At the same time, we can be confident the overwhelming majority of Americans are committed to a peaceful election."
Secure Democracy surveyed 600 voters in each of the states between Oct. 1-16 but did not offer a margin of sampling error. More in Common polled 2,000 adults from Oct. 14-20 and pegged its margin of error of 2 percentage points.