October 29, 2018

Elections in America: Concerns Over Security, Divisions Over Expanding Access to Voting

6. Impressions of voting in elections

Overwhelming majority says voting is important; fewer say it’s convenientVoting is widely viewed by the public as important: 91% say this, while just 8% say it is not. Although most also view it as convenient (73%), straightforward (70%) and exciting (62%), these evaluations are less universally held, and there are sizeable partisan, age and educational differences in these views.

Registered voters offer much more positive evaluations of voting than those who are not registered. While eight-in-ten of those who are not registered say voting is important, nearly all registered voters say this (96%).

Non-voters less likely to view voting as convenient, straightforward or excitingAnd only about half of those who are not registered describe voting in elections as “convenient” (53%) or “straightforward” (52%), while these views are held by much larger majorities of those who are currently registered.

On balance, those who are not registered are more likely to view voting as boring (56%) than exciting (43%). Among registered voters, about seven-in-ten (69%) say that voting in elections is exciting, compared with just 29% who say that it is boring.

There are no significant partisan differences in views of voting’s importance (93% of Republicans and Republican leaners and 92% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say it is important) or in the shares saying voting is exciting – just over six-in-ten in both partisan groups say that it is.

But Democrats and Democratic leaners are less likely than those who affiliate with or lean to the GOP to say voting is convenient (68% vs. 79%) or that it is straightforward (67% vs. 75%).

In both partisan groups, those who affiliate with a party are more likely than those who lean toward a party to describe voting in elections with any of these four positive terms. For instance, 84% of Republicans say voting is convenient, compared with 71% of Republican leaners; the gap between Democrats and Democratic leaners is similar (76% vs. 57%).

More Republicans than Democrats say voting is straightforward, convenient

Impressions of voting also vary across age and educational groups.

Younger adults are much less likely than older people to view voting as convenient: While 90% of those 65 and older say voting in elections is convenient, just half of 18- to 29-year-olds say this.

Wide age gap over whether voting is convenient, excitingSimilarly, voting is viewed as exciting by 77% of those 65 and older, compared with just 49% of those 18 to 29. Though age differences are less pronounced over whether voting is straightforward or confusing and whether it is important or not important, there also are age gaps in these views.

Education is also associated with many of these views. For instance, while 79% of those with postgraduate degrees and 75% of those with bachelor’s degrees say voting is straightforward, a narrower majority (63%) of those with no college experience say the same. And while just 56% of those with a high school degree or less education characterize voting as exciting, this rises to 73% among those with postgraduate degrees. There are no significant educational differences in perceptions of the convenience of voting.

Most say voting will be easy for them personally

Most expect voting in the 2018 midterms will be ‘easy’Among those who say they plan to vote in the November election, 84% expect that voting will be personally easy for them, including 44% who say it will be very easy; 15% say that it will be at least somewhat difficult.

Voting is also viewed as personally easy by about two-thirds (65%) of those who are eligible to vote but say they do not plan to do so or are not sure if they will vote. However, a third of those in this group say voting would be difficult.

While most of those who plan to vote expect voting will be easy, younger people, non-whites, and those without a college degree are less likely than others to say this.

Older voters more likely than younger voters to say voting will be ‘very easy’Nearly nine-in-ten whites who plan to vote (87%) say they expect voting will be easy, including half (50%) who say it will be very easy. In contrast, a smaller majority (71%) of black voters say it will be easy for them personally, and just 32% say it will be very easy. Among Hispanic voters, 83% expect voting to be at least somewhat easy, though just 26% say it will be very easy.

And while about three-quarters or more of voters across all age groups expect voting in this election will be easy, the share saying voting will be very easy increases substantially with age – just 33% of those younger than 30 who plan to vote say this, compared with a majority (55%) of those 65 and older.

Voters without a college degree are slightly less likely than those with a bachelor’s degree or more education to expect voting will be easy (87% vs. 83%).

Republicans also are somewhat more likely than Democrats to say they expect voting to be very easy; 89% of Republicans say it will be at least somewhat easy, compared with 81% of Democrats who say this, and there is a 12-point difference in the shares saying it will be very easy for them to vote this fall (51% vs. 39%).

Those who expect voting to be difficult cite a variety of reasons

Voters who think voting will be difficult cite the political environment and logistics as challengesWhen the small share of voters (15%) who say they expect voting to be difficult this year are asked in an open-ended format why they say this, 23% mention elements of the political environment, including the choice of candidates (10%) or the divisive political climate (10%).

Roughly two-in-ten (22%) mention logistical concerns, ranging from inconvenient timing, to wait times at the polls and uncertainty of how or where to vote or get information.

About one-in-ten (9%) cite concerns about security or interference from foreign actors; 8% say it will be difficult to vote because they are not represented or because they think voting doesn’t matter.