Poll: Despite Concerns Over COVID-19, Most People of Color Plan to Vote in Person in Four Key Battleground States

Election 2020

The in-person voting plans of Black, Latinx, and AAPI voters must be supported and protected, national voting rights advocates say

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2020

Media Contact
Maria Cruz Lee
maria.lee@publicwise.org; 347-882-3225

NC, AZ, PA, and GA – A major new poll released today by the nonpartisan group Public Wise reveals that most people of color in North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia will vote in person, despite concerns about COVID-19, and are unlikely to change their plans.

The poll of 4,723 likely voters – 1,077 in North Carolina; 1,160 in Arizona; 1,093 in Pennsylvania; 1,393 in Georgia – shows that most Black, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters will cast their ballots at physical polling sites either on Election Day or as part of early voting.

It deliberately oversamples people of color who are Democrats, Independents, and Republicans in these four key battleground states, offering a more reliable and nuanced picture of their voting behavior than most national polls that usually undersample these same voters.

Overall, the poll, conducted by Change Research, reveals that 43% of likely voters of color across North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia will vote in person on Election Day, 22% will vote in person through early voting, and 27% will vote by mail or absentee ballot. 

BIPOC Voter Plans
BIPOC Voter Plans, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania

More specifically, 38% of Black voters and 37% of Latinx voters plan to vote in person on Election Day; 29% of Black voters and 15% of Latinx voters plan to vote early in person; and 24% of Black voters and 42% of Latinx voters plan to vote by mail or absentee ballot.

Across demographic groups, voters are extremely motivated to participate in elections this year, compared to previous years. 96% of voters say they are an 8 out of 10 or higher in terms of motivation, even while 66% of Black voters, 61% of Latinx voters, and 77% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say COVID-19 is a very serious or serious concern with in-person voting, the poll finds.

Given the large number of Americans expected to vote in-person through Election Day, Public Wise is also helping to fund efforts to increase the availability of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) at polling stations in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

“The in-person voting plans of every voter should be fully supported and protected, especially at a time when our multi-racial democracy is under attack from the twin threats of COVID-19 and voter suppression. That’s why we’re releasing our poll findings and investing in grassroots efforts to ensure that every voter who plans to vote in person in these battleground states has masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). In recent weeks, we’ve briefed grassroots groups in North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia about the importance of ensuring that all voting in person can happen safely. With so much at stake in the upcoming elections, it’s not enough just to get out the vote. We must also protect the ability of everyone to vote, especially in communities of color with the greatest risks of COVID-19 and voter suppression. Every voter must be treated with equal respect and dignity,” said Christina Baal-Owens, Executive Director of Public Wise.

“It’s inspiring to see many Americans so deeply motivated and energized to vote in person, even despite the risks of COVID-19. We expand our democracy by bringing more of our fellow citizens into the electoral process, and making it easier for them to exercise their right to vote. 

This poll should be a wake-up call to election officials and civic organizations in North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. These states must be ready, willing, and able to help large numbers of voters cast their ballots in person. To succeed, they should proactively combat voter suppression and protect the health of voters in the days ahead, especially since mail ballots cast by voters of color have higher rejection rates,” said Marc Elias, a national expert on voting rights and founder of Democracy Docket

“We cannot allow the pandemic to become another avenue for voter suppression. Because we know so many voters of color will be voting in person on Election Day, we owe it to them, and our democracy to make sure every voter has the support and protection they need to cast a ballot without undue risk to their lives. States have an obligation to make sure every voter who wants to cast a ballot in person has access to a sanitary environment and the PPE necessary to protect themselves, poll workers and the democratic process,” said Nelini Stamp, Campaign Director of the Frontline Election Defenders.

“In these key states we have seen historic, egregious voter suppression efforts targeting voters of color. In 2018 in Georgia, Asian Americans’ absentee ballots were rejected six times more than whites’ ballots. Unfortunately, the AAPI community is experiencing rightful distrust that their votes will be counted if they vote by mail. As much as we have been doing voter education work to ensure that people understand how to vote by mail and get out the vote by their preferred means, it does not negate the experiences that our community has endured with voter suppression. This has pushed our communities to show up in person and risk their lives in order to exercise their right to vote. These states need to consider and resolve 1) how it will protect voters’ health as masses of people come in-person for early voting and Election Day due to a problematic system, and 2) how racist voter suppression policies like exact match are impacting the health and welfare of communities of color,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

Below are the key findings on the overall voting plans for people of color in each of the four states included in the poll, and the specific voting plans for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans:

North Carolina

Overall, 33% of voters of color plan to vote in person on Election Day, 39% plan to vote in person through early voting, and 18% plan to vote absentee ballot or by mail.

North Carolina Voter Plans
North Carolina Voter Plans

Here are the likely voting plans of North Carolina Democrats, Independents, and Republicans:

  • North Carolinians voting in person on Election Day: 22% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 42% of Independents, 74% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • North Carolinians voting in person through early voting: 48% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 32% of Independents, and 22% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • North Carolinians voting by absentee ballot or by mail: 22% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 9% of Independents, and 3% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters.

Arizona

Overall, 31% of voters of color plan to vote in person on Election Day, 15% plan to vote in person through early voting, and 47% plan to vote absentee ballot or by mail.

Arizona Voter Plans

Here are the likely voting plans of Arizona Democrats, Independents, and Republicans:

  • Arizonans voting in person on Election Day: 9% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 44% of Independents, 57% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • Arizonans voting in person through early voting: 13% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 4% of Independents, and 12% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters.
  • Arizonans voting by absentee ballot or by mail: 73% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 45% of Independents, 29% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters.

Pennsylvania

Overall, 71% of voters of color plan to vote in person on Election Day, 2% plan to vote in person through early voting, and 24% plan to vote absentee ballot or by mail.

Pennsylvania Voter Plans

Pennsylvania has no history of early in-person voting and the only in-person early voting available this year is in-person absentee, which is reflected in these findings.

Here are the likely voting plans of Pennsylvania Democrats, Independents, and Republicans:

  • Pennsylvanians voting in person on Election Day: 42% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 73% of Independents, 94% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • Pennsylvanians voting in person early via in-person absentee: 2% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 1% of Independents, and 0% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • Pennsylvanians voting by absentee ballot or by mail: 48% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 15% of Independents, and 5% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters.

Georgia

Overall, 39% of voters of color plan to vote in person on Election Day, 30% plan to vote in person through early voting, and 23% plan to vote absentee ballot or by mail.

Georgia Voter Plans

Here are the likely voting plans of Georgia Democrats, Independents, and Republicans:

  • Georgians voting in person on Election Day: 28% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 51% of Independents, 67% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • Georgians voting in person through early voting: 31% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 28% of Independents, and 27% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters;
  • Georgians voting by absentee ballot or by mail: 33% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 13% of Independents, and 4% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters. 

About Public Wise

Public Wise is an organization formed in 2019 with a mission to create a government that reflects the will of the people. We set out to provide partners with concrete data to help inform organizing efforts this year. To learn more about our work, please visit www.publicwise.org 

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Footnote: State-Specific Information

North Carolina (Presentation | Crosstabs) Change Research surveyed 1,077 likely voters online across North Carolina. Change Research uses Dynamic Online Sampling to recruit a representative sample. Weighting was done on gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and 2016 vote. The margin of error is ± 3.0% for the full sample and larger among subgroups.

Arizona (Presentation | Crosstabs) Change Research surveyed 1,160 likely voters online across Arizona. Change Research uses Dynamic Online Sampling to recruit a representative sample. Weighting was done on gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and 2016 vote. The margin of error is ± 2.9% for the full sample and larger among subgroups.

Pennsylvania (Presentation | Crosstabs) Change Research surveyed 1,093 likely voters online across Pennsylvania. Change Research uses Dynamic Online Sampling to recruit a representative sample. Weighting was done on gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and 2016 vote. The margin of error is ± 3.0% for the full sample and larger among subgroups.

Georgia (Presentation | Crosstabs) Change Research surveyed 1,393 likely voters online across Georgia. Change Research uses Dynamic Online Sampling to recruit a representative sample. Weighting was done on gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and 2016 vote. The margin of error is ± 2.7% for the full sample and larger among subgroups.