Could surging coronavirus cases across the U.S. keep Democrats from the polls this November?
More than 1,100 U.S. adults were asked “How much of a risk to your health and well-being right now is voting in person?” between July 31 and Aug. 3 as part of a new Axios-Ipsos poll . Overall, more than half expressed some concern, with 31% believing that there is a moderate risk, and 21% saying there’s a large risk. The feeling that it’s a “large risk” was higher than the level of concern for shopping in a supermarket, but lower than the worry over sending children back to school.
When the responses are broken out by political affiliation, however, a pretty stark divide emerges. While less than one in three (29%) surveyed Republicans say there is a moderate or large health risk to voting in person, roughly two-thirds of Democrats (64%) say the same.
More than one in three (37%) Democrats in the poll believe there is a moderate risk, and more than one in five (21%) say there’s a large risk to lining up at polling places to cast their vote.
Independents were more aligned with Democrats, as 59% agree that there is a health risk to voting In person, with 24% citing a large risk.
By gender, more women (57%) than men (47%) consider voting in person a risky move.
And less than half of white respondents (45%) worry about the health risk in voting at the polls, compared to Hispanic (65%) and Black voters (63%) — which is not surprising, considering the coronavirus has disproportionately sickened and killed people of color.
The Axios-Ipsos report notes this could be bad news for presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and other Democrats this fall, as it could suggest that Dems and left-leaning Independents, women and minority communities might not vote in person if high coronavirus infection rates persist, or if there are hurdles to mail-in, absentee or early voting.
“If those voters don’t have good alternatives, that could present Biden and other Democrats with a turnout challenge they don’t need,” the report notes.
A University of Florida professor specializing in elections tweeted data on Florida’s absentee ballot requests, and voters identifying as Democrats outnumbered Republicans by almost 600,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
But Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, wrote that the poll results might reflect a “more generalized sense of risk,” and doesn’t necessarily mean Dems won’t come out to vote in November.
“Democrats and independents tend to be closer together on the risk stuff, and Republicans are further away. Voting is just one of those domains,” he said in a statement. He added that, “This goes to Trump’s narrative, which is, ‘Why do we have to make any exception?’ ‘It’s not that dangerous.’ ‘Oh, they [Democrats] just want to steal the election.’”
President Trump has been making the case that mail-in voting will lead to fraud. He also said in a much-discussed “Axios on HBO” /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T -0.41% interview going viral on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -1.33% , Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +2.33% and Reddit over the past week that mail-in voting could take months to determine the presidential election winner in November.
“You know, you could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of Nov. 3. This election could be decided two months later,” he told Axios’ Jonathan Swan . He warned that, “lots of things can happen will happen during that period of time. Especially when you have tight margins. Lots of things can happen. There’s never been anything like this.”
On Monday, he also tweeted that the “Post Office could never handle” the increased number of mailed ballots “without preparation.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through main-in voting, however. Indeed, Vice President Mike Pence and a half-dozen other senior advisers to President Trump have repeatedly voted by mail, according to election records obtained by The Associated Press.
It should be noted that Trump has called mail-in and absentee voting options the “biggest risk” to his reelection, even as he has trailed Biden in the polls.