New paper compares absentee with precinct voters in the 2003 California recall election

A paper was recently published in Public Opinion Quartery (2006, 70(2), 224-234) by Matt A. Barreto, Matther J. Streb, Mara Marks and Fernando Guerra. If you are at a university or other institution that has online access to the journal, you can view the abstract and download the paper here. Here is the paper’s abstract:

In the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election 2,775,785 absentee ballots were cast, representing about 30 percent of all voters statewide. Given the number of absentee ballots and the increasing propensity for voters in California and elsewhere to choose this voting method, we some basic questions: Who are absentee voters, and are they different from polling place voters? To answer these questions, we fielded a statewide survey of absentee voters in the days before the October 7 recall election, asking respondents why they voted absentee, their partisan and ideological preferences, demographic characteristics, and other relevant questions. We find that absentee voters do not differ significantly from the overall state electorate in terms of their vote preferences, despite being older and better educated. For example, 56 percent of absentee voters in our survey voted “yes” on the recall, compared with 55 percent for the entire state, according to official returns. Further, absentee voters favored Arnold Schwarzenegger over Cruz Bustamante by a considerable margin, similar to the overall election results. We found party registration among absentee voters to be nearly identical to statewide partisan registration.

Their study compares a sample of 300 absentee voters, with the more than 5,000 voters in the 2003 Los Angeles Times exit poll. For those who have followed the debates about absentee voting (especially in California) one of the more interesting results in this particular study is their finding that absentee voters in their sample appear to have nearly identical political preferences and behavior to the precinct voters in the exit poll sample. Whether the same result is true of elections other than the 2003 recall election is a question for future research.