Does the level of support shown for voter-ID laws in Gallup’s new poll insinuate that four out of five Americans are raaaaacists? Only if seventy-seven percent of non-whites are also bigots. In fact, one will rarely see such consensus about policy across the board about any issue — and demonstrate the large gap between voter policy consensus and the judiciary.
There are also other points of broad consensus in the same poll:
As partisan-fueled court battles over state voting laws are poised to shape the political landscape in 2016 and beyond, new Gallup research shows four in five Americans support both early voting and voter ID laws. A smaller majority of 63% support automatic voter registration. …
Though many of the arguments for early voting and against voter ID laws frequently cite minorities’ voting access, nonwhites’ views of the two policies don’t differ markedly from those of whites. Seventy-seven percent of nonwhites favor both policies, while whites favor each at 81%. Nonwhites are, however, more likely to support automatic voter registration (71%) than are whites (59%).
More than four in five residents of the Midwest, South and West, regions where at least half of states have early voting, support the policy. The East, where the policy is favored least (71%), is unique in that only the District of Columbia and two states — Maryland and West Virginia — have a formal process of early voting.
But some states in the region offer alternatives to formal early voting. Three other Eastern states — Maine, New Jersey and Vermont — have what the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) refers to as “in-person absentee” voting. This is a less formal process of early voting in which a voter can apply in person for an absentee ballot and immediately cast that ballot before an election. In Massachusetts, early voting is allowed in even-year elections. The region’s most populous states, New York and Pennsylvania, have no form of early voting.
All three of these policies enjoy widespread popular support. Democrats support voter-ID laws by an overwhelming majority of 63%, while 83% of independents support it. None of this should surprise, by the way; voter-ID laws have always been popular, in large part because it presents no significant barrier to voting.
When it comes to perception of the issue, though, there are some differences. Overall, slightly more Americans see voter fraud as a major problem than eligible voters not being able to cast ballots, 36/32 (not necessarily exclusive positions in this poll). For Republicans, it’s a wide majority at 52/22, and independents are more evenly split at 33/31. A plurality of Democrats (40%) see ballot access as a major problem, but 26% still see vote fraud as a major problem in the upcoming election. Non-whites also have a plurality of 46% citing access as a major problem, but 35% see vote fraud in the same way too.
What makes this interesting is that courts see these laws very differently than most voters, including most non-white voters. The knee-jerk reaction from judges, especially of late, is to assume hostile intent when it comes to verifying identity and eligibility at the polling station. Voters overwhelmingly do not see it in those terms. That dichotomy will create increasing frustration from voters, especially when these decision assume a malicious intent that clearly does not exist in most voters’ minds.
In regard to the other two policies — early voting and automatic registration — Republicans tend to be on the other side of those issues, and not necessarily for bad reasons. But the genie’s out of the bottle on early voting, and these numbers suggest that fighting it won’t make the GOP any more popular no matter how intellectually sound their argument might be. They’d do better to retool their operations to compete effectively in the new environment.