Instead, most said the USPS should be run as a “public service,” even if doing so would cost the government money.
That belief was more prevalent among Democrats (82 percent) and independents (69 percent). Republicans were evenly divided, with 49 percent saying it should be run as a public service and 51 percent choosing the business option, “even if that limits the services it provides.”
Soon after taking office in June, DeJoy implemented a number of cost-cutting changes that have led to mail backlogs across the country. The former logistics executive and GOP fundraiser also has signaled he has more aggressive changes in mind, including some that would reduce service, aligning the agency more closely to a business model than that of a government service.
DeJoy’s changes have elicited suspicion among voters and postal workers in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. He shelved some of the changes in August after a public backlash. More recently, federal judges in Washington state, New York, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania have blocked the USPS from instituting those changes.
Partisan tensions are running high as millions of Americans prepare to cast mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic, and mail delays have heightened concerns that voters unfamiliar with the process will be disenfranchised.
The poll of 1,929 Americans was conducted Aug. 24 to 31 by Ipsos using the nationally representative KnowledgePanel, covering views on the Postal Service as well as the voting process this fall. The error margin is plus or minus three percentage points for the sample overall and among registered voters.
The beliefs reflected in the poll are not simply a function of the controversy surrounding the Postal Service in recent months. They are also tied to Americans’ direct experiences with the agency. Slightly more than half of those polled say they have noticed that mail takes more days to arrive compared with the same time last year. Forty-two percent said their mail comes later in the day, and 37 percent claimed there is less mail delivered than usual. About 1 in 6 (17 percent) said these changes have caused a major problem for them.
Democrats were more likely than Republicans to report these issues, perhaps reflecting partisan views on DeJoy and the Trump administration as a whole. But on net, the shares of partisans reporting at least one of these delays were remarkably similar: 69 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents said they had noticed at least some type of delay.
Nevertheless, Americans still rate the Postal Service favorably, with 72 percent saying it is doing an “excellent” or a “good” job. That number is virtually unchanged from Gallup polls conducted in 2014 and 2017, suggesting that its recent troubles have not damaged public perceptions of the agency. Two-thirds said they were confident the USPS would be able to deliver election ballots in a timely manner.
However, registered voters were more likely to express confidence that their ballots would be accurately counted if they were to vote in person early (90 percent) or on Election Day (94 percent), rather than by mail (69 percent). Seventy-three percent of voters said “fear of coronavirus infection should qualify as a reason to vote by mail.” Solid majorities of Democrats (93 percent) and independents (78 percent) held this view, while Republicans (49 percent) were split. All but a handful of states allow fear of coronavirus infection as a reason to vote by mail.
Voters also were skeptical of President Trump’s unfounded attempts to cast mail voting as suspicious or fraudulent, with 57 percent saying those attacks are primarily an effort “to stop people from voting against him.” Ninety-three percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents took this view, which was shared by just 16 percent of Republicans.
And more than 8 in 10 voters (86 percent) said that the Postal Service should prioritize mailed ballots over other mail, as it has done in the past — with wide agreement across partisan lines.
Overall, the survey underscores how the Postal Service — consistently one of the most favorably viewed agencies in the federal government — appears to have weathered its long summer of discontent. Despite the operational streamlining attempts and the president’s relentless attacks on voting by mail, Americans retain confidence in the agency’s ability to carry out its mission and deliver ballots in a timely manner this November.
Scott Clement and Jacob Bogage contributed to this report.