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2004-2005

Who Likes Electronic Voting Machines? Young Adults and Republicans Says a WPI Poll

73% of Republicans Support Electronic Voting; 62% of Young Adults Prefer to Vote Electronicall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/October 28, 2004
Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. - October 28, 2004 - Paperless electronic voting machines have generated significant controversy and even lawsuits as Election Day fast approaches. But according to a nationwide survey, two groups of U.S. adults stand out for their strong support of voting electronically -- Republicans and younger adults between the ages of 18 and 34.

Eighty-three percent of Republicans say they are confident that their vote would be accurately recorded and counted if they voted electronically in the election. This includes 49% who are "very confident" in the accuracy of electronic voting machines, compared to only 33% of Democrats who are "very confident" and 38% of independents.

When asked if they would support or oppose the use of electronic voting in the upcoming presidential election, 73% of Republicans say they support it, while only 61% of Democrats say they support it.

"The difference of opinion between Democrats and Republicans on electronic voting is partly attributable to many Democrats feeling victimized by the failure of the Florida punch-card ballot system in 2000," says Kent J. Rissmiller, WPI associate professor of social science and policy studies. "As a result, it is unlikely that Democrats would strongly support a voting system where they cannot plainly see how the votes are counted. And this sentiment certainly applies to electronic voting machines that by and large will not produce a paper trail."

Nearly 30% of the electorate on November 2 are expected to use electronic voting machines, most of which will not produce a paper record -- leaving no paper trail in the event a recount is needed. This includes electronic machines planned for use in presidential swing state Florida.

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.

Among younger Americans, between the ages of 18 and 34, 62% indicate that they would "prefer to vote" electronically over manually (32%). By contrast, Americans over the age of 65 feel nearly the opposite, with only 31% saying they would chose to vote electronically and 60% preferring voting manually. Younger voters also believe by wide margins that electronic voting machines are easy to use, and make it faster to vote compared to manual methods.

In addition, the use of electronic voting machines could even lead to a higher turnout among 18- to 34-year-old voters on Election Day, since 54% say that it is "more likely that I will go out and vote" if they could vote electronically rather than manually.

"I think the younger generations have more confidence in electronic, not paper voting," explains Mark J. Penn, president of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. "They grew up with the PC, not the punch card, and want to vote that way."

Rissmiller adds, "younger people are always the first adopters of new technologies, especially electronic ones. Most of the members of this age group cannot remember a time when ATMs didn't exist. They are familiar and comfortable with ATM-like systems when conducting important financial transactions, and their faith in such systems apparently extends to voting transactions via electronic voting machines."

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

Confidence Electronic Votes Would Be Accurately Recorded and Counted

“If you were asked to vote electronically this November, by touching a computer screen, how confident would you be that your vote would be accurately recorded and counted in the election?”

Voter ConfidenceParty ID
All Dem Rep Ind
Very confident 39% 33% 49% 38%
Somewhat confident 35% 37% 34% 35%
Not very confident 12% 15% 10% 10%
Not at all confident 10% 11% 4% 14%
Don't know 3% 4% 3% 3%

Table 2

Support/Opposition to the Use of Electronic Voting

“Would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the use of electronic voting in the upcoming presidential election?”

Party ID
All Dem Rep Ind
Strongly support 38% 35% 49% 30%
Somewhat support 25% 26% 24% 27%
Somewhat oppose 14% 15% 0% 15%
Strongly oppose 15% 17% 11% 17%
Don't know 9% 7% 7% 10%

Table 3

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?”

Ages
All 18-34 35-64 64+
Electronic voting 53% 62% 55% 31%
Manual voting 40% 32% 37% 60%
No preference 5% 3% 6% 6%
Don't Know 2% 2% 2% 2%

Table 4

Voting Methods Affecting Likelihood "That I Will Go and Vote"

“Does the characteristic 'Makes It More Likely That I Will Go and Vote' apply much more to electronic voting, somewhat more to electronic voting, somewhat more to manual voting, or much more to manual voting.”

Ages
All 18-34 35-64 64+
Much more to electronic voting 26% 27% 29% 13%
Somewhat more to electronic voting 14% 27% 9% 4%
Somewhat more to manual voting 10% 12% 9% 10%
Much more to manual voting 15% 9% 15% 31%
Applies the same to both 25% 18% 30% 26%
Don't Know 9% 7% 9% 16%

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.