Voter confidence in California: most California voters confident their ballots are accurately counted

During my travels this summer, a number of reports and studies came out that I’m only now having the chance to read. One of study that came out about a month ago (August 23) was a report from the Field Poll, which provided a short summary report based on a survey of 402 likely California voters. In that survey, interviewers from the Field Poll asked these likely voters how confident they are that their ballots are counted accurately, and how confident they are in various voting technologies.

What was most surprising is how closely the results in this recent Field Poll compare to the results of similar voter confidence surveys that Thad and I have conducted over the past few years, at the national level. And this is true even after all of the turmoil in California associated with voting technologies.

First, the Field Poll found that 85% of likely voters expressed confidence that their votes are being accurately counted in California elections (44% said they had a great deal of confidence; 41% said they had some confidence).

Second, the Field Poll also asked likely voters about which voting method provides voters with the greatest confidence that their vote will be accurately counted: 31% said electronic touchscreen voting, 31% said using a punchcard, and 32% said filling in circles on a paper ballot.

Finally, while this Field Poll report did not provide many other detailed statistics, it did examine the correlation between overall voter confidence and confidence in the various voting technologies:

However, there are differences in voter confidence of each voting system between those who have a great deal of confidence overall in the vote counting process and those who do not. Voters who express a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the vote counting process overall are more likely to have greater confidence in touch screen voting systems than other voters. Those who have less confidence in the accuracy of vote counting place more confidence in paper ballot and computer punch card voting systems.

Digging more deeply into this interesting correlation, as well as other potential variables that might be associated with high or low confidence (especially for Black, Hispanic and Asian voters) would be interesting, though potentially difficult due to the sample size. It’s also worth noting that this is a sample of likely voters, and that as such we can’t know what the confidence levels are for non-voters (which is a very interesting question for future polling in California and elsewhere throughout the country).

Our research on voter confidence is forthcoming in two separate articles, one in the Journal of Politics, the other in the University of Arkansas Law Review. Some of our survey work is also in our new book on the electronic voting controversy, forthcoming early next year from Princeton University Press, “Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy”. We’ve also periodically released reports that give highlights of the results from our surveys, for example, our report on our 2006 voter confidence survey. This area of public opinion research is becoming a productive cottage industry, with a number of scholars (including Lonna Atkeson and Kyle Saunders, as well as Quin Monson and Kelly Patterson) producing innovative new data and interesting research on voter confidence.