Poll: concerns about voter fraud spur broad support for Voter ID laws

August 11, 2012

Almost three-quarters of all Americans support the idea that people should have to show photo identification to vote, even though they are nearly as concerned about voter suppression as they are about fraud in presidential elections, according to a new Washington Post poll.

A controversy over voter ID laws is a prominent backdrop to this year’s election, with courtroom showdowns in Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere over voting rights and otherwise mundane election procedures.

Overall, there is high, strong and cross-party support for such laws, even though a slim majority of Americans say they have heard “not much” or “nothing” about the issue. Support dips among those who say they have heard more about new photo identification requirements but remains the majority position.

About half of those polled see voter fraud — people voting who are not eligible to do so or voters casting multiple ballots — as a “major problem” in presidential elections. One in three see it as a “minor problem.” The numbers are nearly as high when it comes to concern about eligible voters being denied their rights.

Asked to trade off the two, slightly more Americans are concerned with fraud than with voter suppression, although stark partisan and racial differences emerge. Two-thirds of Republicans see voter fraud as a bigger problem; nearly as many Democrats are primarily concerned with denying eligible voters access to the ballot box.

In the poll, African Americans are the most likely to see voter suppression as a major problem and the most likely to see support for the laws as an effort to boost one party over the other. Nearly six in 10 African Americans sense that support for the laws stems from partisan politics.

While 44 percent of Americans perceive partisan politics at play in the support of such laws, far more, 57 percent, see a genuine interest in fair elections as a big motivator.

A challenge for opponents of the ID laws is that a slim majority of Americans see politics behind the opposition, with fewer sensing it is motivated by a real interest in clean vote counts.

Moreover, big majorities of those whom critics see as bearing the brunt of the laws are supportive of them, including about three-quarters of seniors and those with household incomes under $50,000 and two-thirds of non-whites.

Michael Brandon and Jon Cohen

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