Confidence in Georgia’s 2020-21 Elections
The Center for Election Innovation & Research recently surveyed Georgia voters to better understand their confidence in the state’s electoral system and processes. This polling took place in October during the general election early voting period, in November shortly after the general election, and in January just prior to the runoff election. Though voter confidence diminished somewhat post-November, the drop was less than we might have expected given the foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns designed to diminish voter confidence.1 That better-than-expected result signals cause for hope.
Belief Ballots Counted as Intended
Our January survey showed that 83 percent of respondents were confident their individual votes would be counted as they intended. That was down slightly from our October pre-election surveys, which showed 91 percent of respondents were confident.
As expected, changes within partisan groups were more pronounced.2 Before the general election, 93 percent of self-identified Republicans reported they were confident their votes would count as intended. Despite some drop off, a large majority of Republicans maintained their confidence. By January, 71 percent still believed their votes would be counted as intended. Self-identified Democrats’ confidence was more stable, with a slight increase during the same period. Our October survey found 92 percent were confident their votes would count as intended, and in January, 98 percent were confident.
Confidence in Voting Methods
In-person voters’ confidence remained high and relatively steady. In our October survey, 90 percent of respondents who voted or planned to vote in person said ballots cast in person likely would be counted accurately. This only fell slightly to 85 percent in January. Any downward trend was due, again, to declines among Republicans. In October, 91 percent of Republicans who voted or planned to vote in person believed in-person ballots likely would be counted accurately compared to 78 percent in January. Their Democratic counterparts actually saw increased confidence, growing from 89 percent in October to 98 percent in January.
Absentee voters’ confidence similarly remained relatively steady despite rampant disinformation. In October, 93 percent of respondents who voted or planned to vote absentee in the upcoming election were confident absentee ballots would be counted accurately, with only a small decline to 87 percent in January. Democrats went from 96 percent to 92 percent being confident, while Republicans, the primary targets of false claims of voter fraud, declined a bit more, from 98 percent to 79 percent.
The disinformation campaign to raise doubts about the integrity of Georgia’s elections was without modern precedent. There is no question that the falsehoods about the election had an impact on their intended audience—Republican voters in the state. However, our survey data suggests that while there has been a measurable decline in voter confidence among Republicans, that decline was not as large as one might expect. Republicans were still fairly confident overall, with over 70 percent believing their votes would be counted as cast. It’s likely that efforts of election officials and others throughout the state, using transparent processes and accurate and secure methods, as well as communicating those methods effectively, contributed substantially to bolstering voter confidence.
1 For examples of the unprecedented and false attacks on Georgia’s voting system in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election, see: Hope Yen, Jeff Amy, and Michael Balsamo, “AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Made-up Claims of Fake Georgia Votes,” AP NEWS, January 3, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/ap-fact-check-donald-trump-georgia-elections-atlanta-c23d10e5299e14daee6109885f7dafa9.
2 For more about partisan divisions, see: Miles Parks, “The Next 2020 Election Fight? Convincing Trump’s Supporters That He Lost,” GPB, November 8, 2020, https://www.gpb.org/news/live-updates-2020-election-results/2020/11/08/the-next-2020-election-fight-convincing-trumps.