I Give

2004-2005

As Election Day Approaches, WPI Poll Shows Americans Have Concerns About Electronic Voting Machines

77% Would Support Electronic Voting Machines If They Produced a Paper Record

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/October 21, 2004
Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. - October 21, 2004 - With the presidential election rapidly approaching, and nearly one-third of voters casting their votes electronically, a new poll shows that U.S. adults are concerned about electronic voting machines being potentially vulnerable to mistakes and glitches, as well as fraud and cheating.

Despite these concerns, the poll also shows a high level of interest in the potential advantages of electronic voting machines, such as being easier to use and a faster way to cast ballots.

This poll was commissioned by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc., which surveyed a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults by telephone from September 29 to October 10, 2004.

The poll compares attitudes toward electronic voting (voting by using a touch-screen similar to automatic teller machines at banks) and manual voting (voting by marking a paper ballot with a pen or pulling a lever) in the upcoming presidential election.

When asked which method of voting is more “vulnerable to mistakes and glitches,” 53% of U.S. adults say electronic voting, and 34% say manual voting (7% say it applies equally to both, and 6% do not know).

When asked which method of voting is more “vulnerable to fraud and cheating,” 43% say electronic voting, and 39% say manual voting (12% say it applies equally to both, and 6% do not know).

With these uncertainties concerning the performance of electronic voting machines, U.S. adults express strong support for a paper record of the vote. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults would support electronic voting machines in the upcoming presidential election if they were all required to come with printers to produce a paper record of the vote. In addition, 69% believe that electronic voting machines should produce a paper record of the vote, even if this adds significant costs to conducting elections.

However, most of the electronic voting machines being used next month will not produce a paper record -- leaving no paper trail in the event a recount is needed. This includes electronic voting machines planned for use in the critical swing state of Florida.

“These numbers reflect continuing public unease about our system of voting and suggest that we’ve made little progress since the nation’s experience in the 2000 hanging-chad recount in Florida,” says Kent J. Rissmiller, WPI associate professor of social science and policy studies. “Clearly the public does not see an immediate answer in electronic voting machines. They are left to wonder why ATMs give you a receipt, but most of the electronic voting machines planned for use on November 2 will not. These concerns would be greatly alleviated if all electronic voting machines were required to provide a paper trail.”

Despite their concerns about the technology, a majority of U.S. adults (53%) indicate that they would “prefer to vote” electronically over manually (40%). Respondents also believe by wide margins that electronic voting machines are easy to use, and make it faster to vote compared to manual methods.

For additional information about the WPI poll on electronic voting machines, including complete results, an executive summary, and age breakdowns, visit the TCI Web site.

Table 1

Which Method Is Vulnerable to Mistakes and Glitches

“Does the characteristic ‘Vulnerable to Mistakes and Glitches’ apply much more to electronic voting, somewhat more to electronic voting, somewhat more to manual voting, or much more to manual voting?”

33%: Much more to electronic voting

20%: Somewhat more to electronic voting

16%: Somewhat more to manual voting

18%: Much more to manual voting

7%: Applies the same to both

6%: Don’t know

Table 2

Which Method Is Vulnerable to Fraud and Cheating

“Does the characteristic ‘Vulnerable to Fraud and Cheating’ apply much more to electronic voting, somewhat more to electronic voting, somewhat more to manual voting, or much more to manual voting?”

31%: Much more to electronic voting

12%: Somewhat more to electronic voting

16%: Somewhat more to manual voting

23%: Much more to manual voting

12%: Applies the same to both

6%: Don’t know

Table 3

Support for Electronic Voting Machines If They All Produced a Paper Record

“If all electronic voting machines were required to come with printers that produce a paper record of the vote, would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the use of electronic voting in the upcoming presidential election?”

51%: Strongly support

26%: Somewhat support

9%: Somewhat oppose

9%: Strongly oppose

4%: Don’t know

Table 4

Paper Record for Electronic Voting Machines Versus Added Costs

“Some people say that all electronic voting machines should come with printers installed to produce a paper record of the vote. Having a paper record will ensure that all votes are recorded accurately and that the votes can be recounted if there is a problem with the electronic voting machine.

Others say that electronic voting machines should not come with printers installed to produce a paper record of the vote. The electronic voting machines can accurately record all votes and installing printers with every voting machine will add significant costs to conducting elections and will make it harder to operate and maintain the voting machines.

Which of these comes closest to your view of electronic voting?”

69%: Electronic voting machines should produce a paper record of the vote

27%: Electronic voting machines should not produce a paper record of the vote

5%: Don’t know

Table 5

Preference of Voting Electronically or Manually

“If you had the choice, would you prefer to vote electronically, for example, by touching a computer screen -- or manually, for example, by marking a paper ballot with a pen or pulling a lever?”

53%: Electronic voting

40%: Manual voting

5%: No preference

2%: Don’t know

Survey Methodology

The Electronic Voting Survey, sponsored by Worcester Polytechnic Institute and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc., obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 750 adults living in the United States. Interviews were conducted between September 29 and October 10, 2004. The margin of error is +/-3.6%. Margins are higher in sub-groups.