The experience of voters is one of those things that hide in plain sight. Despite the fact that more than 100 million voters take part in presidential elections, and around 80 million voters take part in midterm congressional elections, very little is actually known about the experiences voters have when they go to cast a ballot. Do their machines work? Do they wait in long lines? Are they met by competent poll workers? Voters tell each other stories about these things, and sometimes reporters write news accounts about them, but until 2008 no one had ever attempted to ask voters about their experience on Election Day in any comprehensive, systematic way. Thus was born the Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), the first (and thus far only) comprehensive national public opinion study of voting from the perspective of the voter. In 2014, with the financial assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts (which has generously funded the SPAE since its inception), we have been able to study in detail the voting experience at midterm. This report touches on some highlights.
But first, a little more background. The SPAE was begun in 2008, supported by Pew’s Make Voting Work Initiative and the JEHT Foundation, to answer a long list of questions about voting in American that the 2000 Florida recount controversy had raised. These questions ranged from the sensational — do we live in a banana republic, with officials unable to conduct competent elections? — to the scientific — precisely how many votes get lost because of broken machines, inaccurate registration lists, and long lines?
The basic survey is administered to 200 registered voters in each state plus the District of Columbia. This allows us to make reliable comparisons between states on the questions we explore; when we aggregate the answers together, we have responses from 10,200 registered voters to consider.
The study was designed with the ability to compare across states in mind. The overall size of the sample was chosen because some of the issues its addresses are so infrequent, such as the breakdown of voting machines, that we need 10,200 respondents just to get reliable estimates nationwide.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.