During COVID-19, Ohio Voters More Open to Vote by Mail

On behalf of Unite America Institute, Citizen Data fielded a survey on April 2-3, 2020 to assess Ohio state voter attitudes towards expanded vote at home options in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Citizen surveyed a sample of 635 likely Ohio voters from the voter file, based on the criteria that a respondent would have voted regularly in primary and general elections since 2016. The poll was fielded via IVR to landlines and cell phones (65%) and P2P text (35%). There were 635 total completed responses to 14 poll questions.

The margin of error was 3.9%. The geographic breakdown of the respondents (by media market) was as follows: 15% from Cincinnati, 22% from Columbus, 10% from Dayton, 33% from northeastern Ohio, 4% from southeastern Ohio, 10% from Toledo, and 5% from Youngstown.

Top findings include:

1. For as long as the coronavirus remains a concern, there is bipartisan support for vote by mail in Ohio.

Assuming coronavirus remains a public health concern, respondents support mailing every registered voter a postage prepaid ballot by a 79-16% margin; even a majority (58%) of “very conservative” voters support the idea. Support for sending an absentee ballot application to all registered voters is almost identical, as 81-14% of voters overall  support that approach, although this more passive method attracted even more “very conservative” support (66%) than mailing every voter a ballot.

Support for online absentee ballot requests, however, isn’t as one-sided as a mass mailing of ballots/absentee ballot applications, and there are differences in opinion depending on where the respondent lives as well as his/her ideology – liberals support the idea 63-13%, moderates/those with no ideology are 42-25% in support, and conservatives support it by a narrower 35-29%.

2. Ohioans are more supportive of short-term adjustments to voting options in light of the coronavirus than they are of permanent adjustments.

Voters are more divided on how long they want any vote by mail changes to be in effect. 49% favor limiting the vote by mail changes to this year’s elections (either the primary election, general election, or both), while 33% favor these changes being put into place for all future elections. Only 7% affirmatively oppose implementing vote by mail in either scenario.

Views on whether voting option changes should be implemented in the short versus long term do vary by party and ideology. Among liberals, 51% favor changes being in effect for future elections while 43% want to limit the changes to this year’s elections. 60% of conservatives want to limit the changes to this year, while only 16% want the changes to be in effect for future elections. However, moderates narrowly favor changes being put in place for future elections as well as this year by a 43-41% margin.

3. If the coronavirus is still a concern in November, it will have a marginally detrimental effect on in-person voting in Ohio.

23% of Ohio voters would be less likely to vote in person; 27% would definitely not vote in person; whereas 35% are just as likely/more likely to vote in person, with 15% undecided.

Among the 75% of respondents who typically vote in person early or on Election Day, though, voters are split on how they would vote in November if coronavirus remains a health concern: 43% would be less likely or definitely would not vote in person (24% less likely/19% definitely would not) while 42% would be as likely/more likely to vote in person.

4. While vote by mail enjoys bipartisan support during the coronavirus, that support is not at the level where candidates supporting vote by mail will have a noteworthy electoral advantage in Ohio.

Support for such a candidate supporting vote by mail is at just 36-21%, and there is variation in response by party and ideology.

Read more about the survey findings at UniteAmerica.org.