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electionlineWeekly — December 1, 2016

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I. In Focus This Week

Democracy Fund survey finds majority happy with voting experience
Survey also finds most have concerns about threats to the process

By M. Mindy Moretti
Electionline.org

These days, it seems you would be hard pressed to get 85 individual people to agree on anything, let alone 85 percent, however, according to a new survey by the Democracy Fund, 85 percent of Americans who went to the polls on November 8th said they had a pleasant experience at the polls on Election Day.

That said, an overwhelming number of those same voters also said they hand concerns on some level that the election was “very fairly” determined, meaning that even the voters who are most trustful of the system after the election still have considerable concerns about specific threats to the process.

What this says to Adam Ambrogi, elections program director at the Democracy Fund is that elections officials have worked hard to build confidence in the system, but there is still work that needs to be done.

“The positive news is that we’re gratified that most people reported individually having a good experience, which I think is a testament to the hard work of elections officials. It’s also a testament to the structure of some of the election system,” Ambrogi said.

Data shows that large swaths of Democrats and Republicans express nervousness about key safeguards within the system, including the idea that fraud, rigging, or hacking may actually have impacted the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

DF GraphicAmbrogi said the survey included an instrument to try and identify messages election officials can use to build greater confidence in the system. Explaining that our system is decentralized, voting machines are under lock-and-key and the lack of connectivity to the Internet seemed to play well with those surveyed.

“All of those messages we tested independently seemed to increase people’s confidence,” Ambrogi said. “Elections officials can work these into conversations.”

Ambrogi did caution that elections officials need to work especially hard to make sure all voters feel safe about their ability to cast a ballot without intimidation. Twenty-three percent of African American voters, and 18 percent of Hispanic voters, say they felt fearful, intimidated, or had problems voting, compared to 12 percent of white voters.

“As election officials work to serve their community and do outreach and education they should be mindful that this is a concern that is out there and they should try to figure out ways and messages to make sure all communities know they are safe and welcome to vote,” Ambrogi said.

This was the first post-election survey Democracy Fund has conducted.

“We just got very troubled with a lot of the rhetoric about rigging/hacking of the voting systems, coming from both sides of the ideological spectrum and we decided to do a couple of things,” Ambrogi said. “First in a longer-term basis, we have put into the field a series of questions through CCS, but we don’t get that data until the beginning of next year and we really felt that we needed to get an initial snapshot of how people experienced the election — what they felt about the entire election writ large.”

The online survey of 1,500 U.S. adults was conducted November 9–11 via VeraQuest, Inc. Panelists are required to double opt-in to ensure voluntary participation in the surveys they are invited to complete. Adult respondents were randomly selected to be generally proportional of the age, sex, region, race/ethnicity, income, and education strata of the U.S., based on Census proportions, and quotas were established for demographics to confirm sufficient diversity of the sample in proportions so that they would resemble that of the United States.

Ambrogi said the Democracy Fund and their partners are still parsing through the demographics of the survey and there will be more information in the coming weeks. And he anticipates surveying voters to become a more regular thing.

“For better or worse the concerns that were raised around this election, I don’t see them going away easily so I think we will be doing more public opinion surveys in people’s faith and trust in the system trying to aid officials and advocates to alleviate those concerns.”

(Editor’s Note: Electionline is funded by the Democracy Fund).