2020 Early Voting: Emerging Trends

Citizen Data is tracking vote by mail returns and measuring early turnout against modeled projections, down to the county level, via a dynamic dashboard which is being updated in real time. Additionally, on October 17-20, our team surveyed 1,000 likely voters via IVR/P2P in key states including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas

All data points considered, our team has identified a set of emerging trends for 2020 early voting: 

Voting Patterns

  • Turnout is up across the board from 2016. In key states, both vote by mail and in-person voting are breaking records.
  • Wait times of those who have voted are generally low. Only a small percentage of voters say they waited for more than an hour. 
  • The shift away from vote by mail is likely related to what voters see and hear about it. The more voters see or hear about vote by mail, the less likely they are to vote by mail. This is especially true of Republicans.
  • Confidence in the USPS is strong across the board. However, voters are split on whether vote by mail is safe or prone to fraud, with some voters holding both views at the same time. 
  • Voters want to see speed AND accuracy in vote counting. Voters generally expect election administrators to tally votes quickly, but while avoiding error. 
  • Voters largely view voting as convenient. That’s true across all parties and demographics. 


  • Biden leads Trump by small margins in each of these key states, with most states within the margin of error — that’s with the exception of Ohio, which is tied. 
  • Mail-in voters strongly favor Biden, but for early in-person voters, less so. Election Day voters decidedly favor Trump. Both candidates’ voters are highly enthusiastic about voting. 

State Trends

  • All states are on track to meet Citizen’s vote by mail and early vote projections, with the exception of Pennsylvania. 
  • Urban counties are most likely to vote by mail and more likely to return their ballots early, compared to more rural counties.
  • There is a partisan gap in voting method. This gap is least pronounced in Florida, though (when considering early in-person and vote by mail combined). 

Read more about our latest findings here. For a more in-depth look with visuals, click here