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Poll: Majority of Americans more concerned about voter access than ineligible voters

But more than 3 in 4 Republicans prioritize making sure no ineligible people vote.
Image: Voters wait in line to cast their ballots on Nov. 3, 2020, in Auburn, Ala.
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Auburn, Ala., on Nov. 3.Julie Bennett / AP file

WASHINGTON — A majority of all Americans prioritize ensuring that those who want to vote can do so, rather than making sure no ineligible people can vote, a new NBC News poll finds.

But while large majorities of Democrats and independents say they are more concerned with protecting eligible voters' access to the polls, Republicans overwhelmingly say they are most concerned about making sure ineligible people do not vote.

The survey found that 58 percent of Americans say their bigger concern when it comes to voting is "making sure that everyone who wants to vote can do so." That includes 87 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents.

A smaller share of all Americans — 38 percent — say they are most concerned about "making sure that no one votes who is not eligible to vote." More than three-quarters of Republicans — 77 percent — agree.

The enormous partisan split reflects a country deeply divided over the integrity of the 2020 election, as former President Donald Trump continues to falsely allege that it was tainted by fraud and as Republican legislators around the country work to enact stricter voting laws that critics say are designed to dampen turnout from Democrats and specifically voters of color.

Large majorities of Black and Hispanic Americans — 82 percent and 73 percent, respectively — say they are most focused on making sure all eligible voters can vote. White respondents, however, were evenly split between focusing on access for all voters and preventing ineligible votes from being cast.

Americans overall also express confidence in elections in their own states. Three-quarters — 74 percent — say they are confident that their states can administer fair elections in which all eligible voters are able to vote and the results are counted accurately, while just 25 percent disagree.

That includes a majority of all partisans. Eighty-five percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans say they have confidence in elections in their own states.

But while Democrats have a high degree of confidence in elections in their states, regardless of whether their residents voted for Joe Biden (88 percent confident) or for Trump (80 percent confident) last year, Republicans are much less likely to be confident in their states' elections if they live in blue states.

Among Republicans who live in states that supported Trump last year, 76 percent say they are confident that their states can administer fair elections. But among those who live in states that supported Biden, just 39 percent say they are confident, while 60 percent say they are not confident.

The debate over access to the polls playing out in legislatures around the country has had far-reaching consequences — even for the world of baseball, the poll found.

After Major League Baseball announced that it would pull its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voting restrictions, nearly 4 in 10 Republicans say they have negative feelings about the organization.

Among Republicans, 22 percent say they have positive feelings toward MLB, while 37 percent say they have negative ones.

Among Democrats, 43 percent report positive feelings, while just 5 percent have negative views.

The NBC News live-caller poll was conducted by Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies from April 17 to April 20. It has a margin of error for all adults of +/- 3.1 percentage points.