Taking place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Presidential Election saw record numbers of Americans vote by mail or in-person prior to Election Day itself.
According to the Census Bureau, 69% of those who voted in 2020 did so by either of these ‘non-traditional’ methods, with the percentage of those who voted by mail in 2020 (43% of the electorate) double the percentage in 2016 (21%).
Due to the order in which mail and in-person ballots were counted and the fact that Biden voters were far more likely to vote early or by mail than Trump voters, some states saw Donald Trump amass impressive looking leads on election night, only for the delayed counting of mailed ballots resulting in Joe Biden taking the lead.
This messy shift in the vote count helped fan the suspicions of a rigged election, particularly from Donald Trump himself and those who had voted for him, and contributed to a chaotic transition of power.
While some might think the voting patterns seen in 2020 were a one-off caused by the pandemic, a recent poll conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, in partnership with The Telegraph, in six key swing states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) suggests that such voting patterns appear likely to be repeated again in 2024.
Overall, in a hypothetical match-up between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Donald Trump currently holds leads over Biden in all six states polled (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania).
But when our voting intention poll is broken down by the intended voting method, a different picture—similar to the one that occurred in 2020—emerges.
Majorities or pluralities of those who intend to vote in person on election day in all six states say they would vote for Donald Trump, giving him a lead of between 11 (North Carolina) and 42 (Arizona) points over Joe Biden among these voters in the states polled.
The percentage of voters who intend to vote in person, but before polling day (i.e., early voting), varies widely by state, from 5% in Pennsylvania, where early voting has not been common practice, to as many as 35% in Florida and North Carolina.
Notwithstanding the small sub-sample sizes for this group of voters in some states (especially Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona), Trump currently leads Joe Biden in five of the six states among early voters, while the candidates are tied on 36% each among voters who intend to vote by this method in North Carolina.
By comparison, majorities or pluralities of those who intend to vote by mail say they would vote for Joe Biden, giving him a lead over Trump in all six states polled among absentee ballot voters. Biden’s leads among these voters over Trump range from as narrow as 13% in North Carolina to as wide as 43% in Pennsylvania.
The way in which people vote will have consequences, as it did in 2020, for how vote counts look on election night, with the possibility that initial substantial leads for one candidate will be whittled down gradually.
Such an exposition of the election results risks fuelling further scepticism about the integrity of election procedures.
At present, pluralities or majorities of voters in all six states agree with the statement ‘I have trust in the integrity of the electoral process in the United States.’ The number of voters who say they agree ranges from between 43% and 53%, depending on the state in question.
However, a significant minority of voters (24%-34%) in all six states disagree that they have trust in the integrity of the electoral process.
In fact, Trump 2020 voters are more likely to disagree than to agree with this statement, “I have trust in the integrity of the electoral process in the United States.” A majority of those who voted for Trump in Pennsylvania (53%) and Arizona (51%), as well as pluralities of Trump voters in Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina disagree with the statement.
By contrast, 60% or more of Biden voters in each state polled say they have trust in the integrity of the electoral process in the United States, while fewer than 20% of Biden voters in any one state disagree.
This latest result marks a sharp reversal from our polling before the last Presidential election, when Donald Trump voters were slightly more likely than Biden voters to express trust in the integrity of the electoral process.
The climate of distrust evident in the swing states follows our finding in a recent national poll that 47% of Americans think it is likely that one or both of Republicans and Democrats will try to cheat in the 2024 Presidential Election. Majorities of both Trump (55%) and Biden (52%) voters at the last election think the prospect of cheating by one or both of the parties is likely.
America therefore enters a crucial election year with voters on opposite sides embracing different voting methods, with sizable percentages of voters distrustful of the integrity of the electoral system, and with widespread expectation that one or both of Republicans and Democrats will attempt to cheat their way to victory.