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Poll: Americans oppose new Texas-style GOP voting restrictions, prefer Democratic reforms

·West Coast Correspondent
·6 min read
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As the national debate over voting rights intensifies, the Democratic Party’s plan to safeguard ballot access is proving more popular with the public than the type of restrictions being pushed by Texas Republicans, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

In fact, all of the recent GOP restrictions tested in the poll garner more opposition than support, while all of the reforms from a recent Democratic proposal attract more support than opposition.

For instance, more than twice as many Americans favor (49 percent) than oppose (21 percent) a Democratic plan to “require at least 15 consecutive days of early voting in federal elections.” In contrast, just 31 percent of Americans favor ongoing Republican efforts in the states to shorten the early or absentee voting period. Forty-six percent oppose such efforts.

Yet many Americans also remain uncertain about whether they would ultimately support new federal voting-rights legislation — underscoring the steep challenges ahead for Democrats determined to meet what President Biden described in a fiery speech Tuesday as “the most significant test to our democracy since the Civil War.” 

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights at the National Constitution Center on July 13, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Biden at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday in Philadelphia. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The survey of 1,715 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 13 to 15, overlapped with a dramatic split-screen spectacle that saw Texas Democrats fleeing the state capital to delay a vote on Republican legislation designed to further restrict voting at the same time Biden was in Philadelphia railing against such measures, which have already passed ​​in 17 GOP-controlled states so far this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

“There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections,” Biden said. “An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are as Americans.”

The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that more Americans share Biden’s priorities on reforming elections than those of his vanquished 2020 rival, Donald Trump, who continues to insist, without evidence, that he lost the election due to fraud — and whose false claims continue to fuel Republican efforts to limit voting among largely Democratic constituencies.

Just 28 percent of Americans — the vast majority of them Republicans — say “the election was rigged and stolen from Trump,” and more Americans believe that “people who should be allowed to vote not being allowed to vote” is a bigger problem (45 percent) than “people voting who shouldn’t be allowed to vote” (39 percent).

Like everything else in American politics, the issue of voting rights is now highly polarized, with just 16 percent of Republicans saying “Joe Biden won the election fair and square” and just 11 percent saying that curbs to legal voting are a bigger problem than widespread voting fraud (which extensive research has proven to be a “myth,” according to the Brennan Center).

Yet independents also side with Biden — and against Republicans — on both questions (by nearly identical margins as Americans overall).

In turn, this consensus is shaping the public’s response to the dueling visions of voting now being put forward by congressional Democrats and Republican legislatures in the states.

On one hand there are bills like Texas’s, which are popular with Republicans but not with the public as a whole. None of the most common GOP restrictions attracts the support of more than 36 percent of Americans, and opposition outpaces support across the board. By a 12-point margin, those surveyed said they did not favor “making it harder to vote by mail”; by 8 points, they were against “banning or cutting back on mail ballot drop-boxes”; by 15 points they did not approve of “shortening the early or absentee voting period”; by 8 points they did not favor “giving more power to partisan observers to police polling places”; and by 40 points they rejected the idea of “making it harder to vote early (in person).” Again, independents oppose all of these measures by margins similar to Americans at large.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks after a meeting with Texas House Democratic Caucus legislature members on Capitol Hill on Thursday, July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin after a meeting with Texas House Democratic Caucus legislature members on Capitol Hill on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/the Washington Post via Getty Images)

On the other hand there is the federal voting-rights compromise recently proposed by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat who is seen as the issue’s key swing vote, and endorsed by former President Barack Obama. In contrast to the Texas bill and others like it, all of Manchin’s provisions attract more support than opposition, including:

  • “making Election Day a national holiday so people have time off from work to vote” (63 percent support, while 19 percent oppose)

  • “banning partisan gerrymandering, the practice by which politicians redraw congressional districts to help their own party win” (50 percent to 24 percent)

  • “requiring at least 15 consecutive days of early voting in federal elections” (49 percent to 21 percent)

  • “requiring voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot, such as a utility bill with their name and address on it” (61 percent to 20 percent)

  • “blocking new election laws enacted by state or local governments with a history of racist election practices until those laws are approved by federal courts or the Department of Justice” (44 percent to 27 percent)

  • and “allowing states to purge ineligible voters from their rolls using state and federal documents” (47 percent to 20 percent)

When asked if they would favor or oppose a bill that includes all of these reforms, just 17 percent of Americans say they would oppose it. The rest either say they would favor it (40 percent) or that they’re not sure (42 percent). Strikingly, Democrats (33 percent) and Republicans (29 percent) say they would favor the package by similar margins, perhaps because the Manchin compromise includes some Republican priorities, such as voter identification. But uncertainty remains high.

Demonstrators are gathered outside of the Texas State Capitol during a voting rights rally on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
Demonstrators outside the Texas state Capitol on the first day of the Legislature’s special session on July 8 in Austin. (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

Beyond that uncertainty, the other problem for Democrats is that Senate Republicans have already vowed to oppose Manchin’s compromise, meaning the only path forward would involve circumventing the 60-vote threshold required to break a filibuster and passing the bill with a simple majority vote of 51 Democrats — something Manchin refuses to do. And while 54 percent of Democratic voters say they would favor the simple-majority approach — versus just 13 percent who would oppose it — it’s worth noting that most Americans remain unconvinced, with nearly two-thirds either opposed (24 percent) or unsure (40 percent).

In other words, Democrats have a more popular voting plan than Republicans. But they don’t have the votes in the Senate to pass it — or the kind of decisive public support that could compel those votes.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,715 U.S. adults interviewed online from July 13 to 15, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote), and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7 percent.

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