Liberal Arts

Poll examines Americans' views on voting practices

McCourtney Institute for Democracy and APM Research Lab collaborate on Mood of the Nation Poll

Question: “Overall, which of the following comes closest to your views about voter registration.” Source: APM Research Lab analysis of McCourtney Institute’s Mood of the Nation Poll, April 13-20, 2021. Credit: APM Research LabAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Recent state election laws, such as Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021, have dominated media headlines and polarized political parties. Provisions within these laws have been decried as blatant voter-suppression tactics, while others have raised concerns of outside influence swaying votes.

These are the narratives that have unfolded in the media, but what do Americans really think? Penn State's McCourtney Institute for Democracy regularly conducts the nationally representative Mood of the Nation Poll to gauge how Americans are feeling about various aspects of American politics and society.

The April 2021 poll included questions about election policy and voter requirements. Working with the McCourtney Institute, the APM Research Lab took a detailed look at these questions to provide further insight on how American’s view voting rights – beyond the headlines.

“The poll shows Republicans are hyper-vigilant against potential fraud while Democrats are worried that voter ID and purging of voter rolls will ensnare eligible voters and deny them the right to vote,” said Eric Plutzer, the Mood of the Nation Poll director and professor of political science.

The analysis is presented in two parts -- views on election policies and waiting in line to vote -- and the APM Research Lab focused on several key questions in the Mood of the Nation Poll related to everything from voting rights for people convicted of felonies to the government’s responsibility in the election process.

Major takeaways:

Views on election policies

  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans favor allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after serving their sentences; support is particularly strong among Black Americans and Democrats.
  • 83% of American adults favor ensuring the eligibility of those listed on voter rolls by allowing states to cooperate on a national database that checks whether potential voters have moved or have duplicate registrations.
  • 90% of American adults favor using information from the Social Security Administration and death certificates to remove those who are no longer living from registered voter lists.
  • Two-thirds of Americans support requiring all voters to show government-issued identification to vote.
  • A slight majority prioritizes the government’s role in making it as easy as possible for citizens to register to vote over ensuring voter eligibility.

Waiting in line to vote

  • Nearly half of Americans say that waiting to vote more than 30 minutes is unacceptable.
  • When asked if they personally would still vote in the 2022 midterm election if it involved wait times of 90 minutes or more, half of American adults say they definitely would still vote.

“With many states considering changes impacting who would vote it is important to hear directly from the American public,” said APM Research Lab Managing Partner Craig Helmstetter. “Many measures are bipartisan — including providing water for those waiting and restoring the vote to former felons — some are less so, including purging nonvoters from registration lists and requiring IDs.”

For complete survey findings and methods, read the full reports on election policies and voter wait times from the APM Research Lab.

Last Updated June 29, 2021