Survey: Nearly 2 out of 3 voters will cast their ballots early in-person or by mail, not on Election Day

With less than four days until the election and amid record levels of early voting, a majority of Americans say they’re going to cast their ballots early in person or by mail, according to a new survey. 

When combining those who are voting by mail (42%) and those who voting early in-person (26%), nearly 2 in 3 voters will be casting their ballot ahead of Election Day, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project.

Record high levels of early voting have been reported across the nation. More than 84 million people have early voted in this election, according to the United States Election Project. More than 23.3 million people have voted in person and more than 52.4 million mail-in ballots have been returned nationwide.

The survey showed a significant partisan divide among how voters plan to cast their ballot.

Those supporting Biden are more likely to say they plan to vote by mail (53%) than those who support Trump (29%). But Trump supporters are more likely than Biden supporters to say they will vote in-person on Election Day, 42% to 20%.

Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, said due to the partisan nature of how voters will be casting their ballots, he warned that election results could shift in the days after the Nov. 3 general election.

While rules vary by state, some states do not begin counting mail-in ballots until after polls close or the day after election, while others may begin counting days ahead of Election Day or before polls close on Election Day. For example, if Biden voters are more likely to vote early, and early votes in a specific state are counted first, you might see Biden jump to a lead early on election night before day-of votes, which favor Trump, are counted. 

“These divisions that exist are going to heavily affect things on a state-by-state basis, as we try to understand the dynamics of election night as well as the days that follow after it,” he said.

When broken down by age group, vote by mail is popular with older voters (59%) and one other group pundits might not expect: young voters. According to the poll, more than half (51%) of voters 18 to 29 say they plan to vote by mail. 

While older voters may be avoiding voting in person because they are at higher risk for coronavirus, Griffin said young voters are likely planning to voting by mail simply because they tend to be more Democratic leaning, and more Democrats are voting more by mail.

Among those who say they are going to vote early in-person, Black voters lead all racial groups surveyed at 40%. Comparatively, 24% of Hispanic, 16% of Asian American voters, 23% of non-college educated white Americans and 27% of white college educated voters say they plan to vote early in person. 

Griffin noted that there could be an array of reasons as to why Black voters are more likely to say they are going to vote early in person, including excitement to cast a ballot or possibly anxiety about other voting processes.

The Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project is a large-scale study of the American electorate designed to conduct 500,000 interviews about policies and the presidential candidates during the 2020 election cycle. The most recent poll was done Oct. 15 to Oct. 21, with 6,304 Americans surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. 

There are still concerns about the election, although a slim majority are confident it will be conducted fairly, according to the Nationscape Insights analysis, a project of Democracy Fund, UCLA and USA TODAY.

The survey found that 57% of Americans are also somewhat or very confident that the elections will be conducted fairly, while more than four in ten (43%) are not too confident or not at all confident.

A majority of both Trump supporters (57%) and Biden supporters (61%) express confidence in the fairness and accuracy of the election.

There is also a small gender gap, with men more confident than women, 62% to 53%.

When broken down by age group, voters 18 to 29 were the only group where less than half express confidence in a fair election. According to the survey, 45% say they are somewhat or very confident that the elections will be conducted fairly while 55% say that they are not too confident or not at all confident.

“Young people just much less trusting on this end of things,” Griffin said. “For some of them it’s going to be their first election, but they’ve come of age in a political period where they potentially haven’t felt that all the rules have been followed.”

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