Poll: Tennessee Republicans less supportive of vote-by-mail

Becky Campbell • May 20, 2020 at 7:00 AM

Voting by mail has more support from Democrats than Republicans according to a statewide poll by East Tennessee State University researchers.

“This is always been something that’s been difficult to navigate, but with the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, some have proposed that with the general election in November that the entire election could be conducted by mail or should be given more leniency and more options to be conducted by mail,” said Kelly Foster, director of the Applied Social Research Lab at ETSU and one of the authors of the poll.

ETSU has already released a portions of the poll related to the novel coronavirus. The part of the poll released on Tuesday only dealt with voting in the 2020 general election.

“It is impossible to predict who will vote in November, but 52.8% of the eligible voting population in Tennessee cast a ballot in 2016, so turnout could be similar in 2020,” Foster said. “The Tennessee Poll asked respondents how likely they are to vote in November 2020, and 83% said that they definitely will vote or will likely vote. For the purposes of discussing the elections, the 17% who said they would definitely not vote, likely would not vote, or were not sure were omitted from questions about voting in 2020.”

The poll also showed there is a strong relationship between how closely one follows the news and the likelihood of voting. One third of those who don’t follow national news at all say that they definitely will not vote in the November general election.

The poll asked two different questions on voting:

• Do you favor or oppose voting by mail in the 2020 general election?

• Do you think every Tennessean should have the option of voting by mail in the next general election, or should vote by mail options only be given to those who are physically unable to vote in person?

“What we found, generally, people’s opinion of vote by mail is by and large pretty set. And it’s split in Tennessee. About 43 percent are in favor of it and 46 percent are against it,” Foster said. “It does have some partisan tone to it. Generally, Republicans tend to oppose vote by mail and Democrats tend to support it. Independents are slightly more in favor of it than they are opposed to it.”

The poll, which was conducted by ETSU’s Applied Social Research Lab, surveyed 618 Tennesseans by phone from April 22 to May 1 about their thoughts and concerns regarding the novel coronavirus and a variety of other topics, including the 2020 election. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%.

Candace Forbes Bright, an associate professor of sociology at ETSU, and Morgan Kidd, the assistant director of the Applied Social Research Lab, also authored the research.

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