University of Exeter: People would prefer to vote online than by post in UK 2021 elections during pandemic, research shows

Nearly 40 per cent of those questioned by experts said they would prefer to vote online or using an app during the pandemic, and 31 per cent said they would prefer to vote by post.

People would prefer to vote online than by post in UK 2021 elections during pandemic, research shows
More people would prefer to vote online than by post during the bumper set of covid-disrupted local, mayoral and national elections this year, research shows.

Nearly 40 per cent (38.8 per cent) of those questioned by experts said they would prefer to vote online or using an app during the pandemic, and 31 per cent said they would prefer to vote by post.

A total of 40 per cent of respondents said they would feel most confident about the election results if they voted at a polling station which had safety measures in place such as social distancing and compulsory face masks. This compares to 29 per cent who said they would have most faith in the integrity of the results if they voted online.
A quarter of respondents said they would prefer it if most people voted by post and 5 per cent preferred polling places with no safety measures.
A fifth of respondents said they would prefer to cast their vote in a polling place with social distancing in place.
The survey was carried out in November 2020 by a team of experts from the University of Exeter who have been monitoring the views of 5,000 people in England on the impact of both Brexit and Covid. Their work is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid-19 rapid response.

Local elections last year were postponed, meaning May 2021 will see an unprecedented number of contests, including local elections, mayoral elections, Mayor of London and London Assembly elections, Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales and Welsh and Scottish parliamentary elections.

In an earlier study, a total of 1,504 people were questioned in May 2020 after the local elections were postponed:

Half said the elections should be cancelled until the vaccine was available to them – around 50 per cent of people agreed and strongly agreed, while 20 per cent of people disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Of the 193 people living in Scotland and Wales, Scottish Parliament of Welsh Assembly elections 43 per cent said there should be all postal voting for the Scottish Parliament of Welsh Assembly elections if coronavirus was still prevalent, while 18 per cent the elections should be postponed if this was the case.
80 per cent said the postponements of elections in May 2020 was the right thing to do, 11 per cent were opposed.
Professor Susan Banducci, who led the analysis of the survey results, said: “It is surprising postal voting seems to be a second preference to online voting. In the last General Elections almost 1 in 4 ballots were postal votes and nearly 1 in 5 votes cast in local elections are by post. In the UK there is a great deal of experience with postal voting. Also, postal voting would be more secure than online voting.

“It will be interesting to see how many people choose to cast a postal ballot this year.”

Professor Banducci, who has published research on postal voting in the U.S. state of Oregon, said: “There are many advantages to postal voting – it is efficient, low cost and is a safe way to vote where there is still the risk of spreading infection when people gather. Turnout also tends to be higher where postal voting is easy and encouraged.”

The experience of the 2020 US presidential has indicated that postal voting is a viable, safe and secure way of handling large elections. More than 40 per cent of people voted by post and elections were conducted mostly by post in seven states.

This new survey suggests, unlike in the USA, in the UK views on postal voting are not partisan. People who indicated they had voted Labour and Conservative said they were equally confident in postal voting. Older respondents were 10 per cent more likely say they preferred to vote in person than younger voters.

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