WASHINGTON — A majority of American adults intend to vote early in person or by mail this year, according to new data from the NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll, as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to upend how Americans cast their ballots.
Fifty-two percent of adults say they will vote early — with 19 percent saying they will vote early in person and 33 percent more saying they will vote by mail. About a third of adults, 33 percent, say they will vote in person on Election Day, and 11 percent say they might not vote at all.
There's a stark difference in voting plans when broken down by party affiliation, however. Fifty-four percent of adults who identify as Republican or lean that way say they will vote in person on Election Day, while just 22 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say the same. Democrats are much more likely to vote by mail — with 50 percent saying that's their plan for November, compared to just 18 percent of Republicans who say they'll mail in their ballots.
Another 21 percent of Republicans say they'll vote early in person, and 21 percent of Democrats agree. Independents are much more likely to track with Democrats: 20 percent of them say they'll vote in person on Election Day, 13 percent say they'll vote early in person, and 29 percent say they'll vote by mail.
According to a report after the 2016 election by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the share of voters who vote in person on Election Day has declined steadily over the past decade. From 2004 to 2016, the number of Americans who voted early more than doubled, from 10.2 million early ballots to 24.1 million ballots. In 2016, about 4 in 10 people cast their ballots through early voting, absentee voting or voting by mail.
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A majority of adults also continue to favor changing election laws to allow everyone to vote by mail. Fifty-four percent of adults say they strongly or somewhat favor changing laws to make vote-by-mail access universal, while 42 percent of adults say they somewhat or strongly oppose such changes. The numbers are virtually unchanged from earlier in August, when 55 percent of adults said they strongly or somewhat favored allowing everyone to vote by mail, while 42 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed it.
However, a majority of Americans also remain doubtful that the November election will be conducted in a fair and equal way. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say they are not too confident or not at all confident that the election will be conducted fairly, while 41 percent say they are very or somewhat confident in the equity of the election. In August, 55 percent of Americans said they were not at all or not too confident in the election's fairness.
Looking ahead to November's get-out-the-vote race, 81 percent of American adults say they are registered to vote where they live, while 10 percent say they aren't. And the party breakdown shows parity on the issue. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican are registered to vote at their current addresses, while 87 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say the same.
Sixty percent of independents say they are registered to vote where they live, while 21 percent of independents say they aren't. Just 8 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican and 7 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say they aren't registered to vote.
President Donald Trump's approval rating among all Americans has remained consistent. In this week's tracking poll, 44 percent of adults say they strongly or somewhat approve of his job performance, while 54 percent disapprove. That's consistent with Trump's job rating throughout the summer.
Data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted Aug. 24-30, 2020, among a national sample of 37,386 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States ages 18 and over.