New Survey Highlights the 2014 Voting Experience

A nationwide study of voters’ experiences during November's midterm federal election found that approximately 40 percent of respondents cast their ballots early or by mail. The 2014 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE)—conducted by Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts—surveyed more than 10,000 registered voters nationwide. Among the findings:

  • 41 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day. 
           o 16 percent voted early in person or in-person absentee.
           o 25 percent voted by mail.
           o 59 percent voted in person on Election Day.

This continues the shift of more voters casting ballots before Election Day. In 2008, 37 percent voted before Election Day, and 39 percent did in 2012, according to the SPAE.

  • In 15 states, the majority of votes were cast before Election Day. This was the case in 14 states in 2012 and 11 states in 2008.
  • Not all mail ballots are returned by mail. Nationwide, more than 1 in 4 voters who received their ballots in the mail dropped them off in person at an official location such as a drop box or polling place.
  • Not surprisingly, voters reported shorter waits to cast ballots than in 2012. Eighty-eight percent said they waited less than 10 minutes in 2014, compared with 67 percent in 2012.
  • The peak time for voting on Election Day was between 10 and 11 a.m. Thirteen percent of respondents said they voted during that window. 

The 2014 SPAE has much more information on the voting experience as well as data on those who did not vote and why. In the coming months, Pew will continue to provide analysis based on this rich data-set.

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