Voting Amid COVID: The Response of Voters to Voting during the Pandemic

44 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2021 Last revised: 2 Mar 2022

See all articles by Charles Stewart III

Charles Stewart III

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 28, 2021

Abstract

This paper is a tour of mostly public opinion evidence about how COVID affected the experience of voters as they cast ballots in 2020. Topics covered include turnout, reasons for not voting, precautions observed in polling places, and the confidence voters felt about whether the layout of voting locations protected them against the coronavirus. Key findings include: (1) individual turnout analysis using the CES shows that respondents were less likely to vote in counties with high COVID death rates; (2) Democrats who knew someone who died of COVID were less likely to vote, but not Republicans; (3) voters with poor health, less interest in the news, and higher educational attainment were more likely to vote by mail, as were Democrats and those living in counties with his COVID death rates; (4) highly engaged Democrats were more likely to vote by mail than unengaged Republicans, while the opposite was true of Republicans; and (4) voters were highly confident that the layouts of voting locations protected against the spread of COVID.

An interesting complicating finding is that many of the factual and attitudinal answers to survey questions about voting were identical whether or not the respondent’s report of voting was validated. This raises important methodological and theoretical questions about not only the validity of the findings in this paper, but also the findings in research that relies on self-reports about the experience of voters (or election officials, for that matter) on Election Day.

Keywords: elections, COVID, absentee voting, coronavirus, confidence

Suggested Citation

Stewart III, Charles, Voting Amid COVID: The Response of Voters to Voting during the Pandemic (September 28, 2021). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2022-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3931936 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3931936

Charles Stewart III (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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