Americans: Make voting easier, not mandatory

March 30, 2015, 9:39 PM GMT+0

Most Americans support making it much easier to register to vote, but very few support making it mandatory to vote

Last week Oregon became the first state to automatically register people to vote. Under the new law, anyone who is eligible to vote and has dealt with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles will be automatically registered to vote and sent a ballot in the mail 20 days before statewide elections. Officials estimate that the move could prompt up to 300,000 more Oregonians to vote. Around the world such efforts to increase voter turnout are not unusual. In Britain it is against the law not to register to vote, while in Australia if you do not vote you face having to pay a fine. President Obama recently discussed the consequences of making voting compulsory in the United States, saying that it would be 'transformative' and counteract the influence of money in American politics.

YouGov's latest research shows that most Americans support automatic registration for people who interact with the DMV (54%) and allowing people to register to vote on the same day as an election (55%). Only a third of Americans oppose each proposal, though while most Republicans support automatic registration (53%), most also oppose same day registration (54%).

When it comes to mandatory voting, however, a large majority of the public (66%) oppose making it mandatory to vote, meaning that people who do not vote face criminal penalties. Only 26% support mandatory voting. Democrats are evenly split between the 45% who support mandatory voting and the 46% who oppose it, but only 19% of independents and 17% of Republicans support forcing people to vote.

Overall, Democrats tend to be seen as the most likely to benefit from compulsory voting. 34% of Americans, including 38% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans, think that Democrats would be helped more by required voting, while only 5% think that Republicans would be. 33% think it would help both parties about equally.

Despite support for laws which would make it far easier to register to vote and actually vote, only 22% of Americans think that the government should be working to get more people to vote. 71% of Americans think that it is an individual's responsibility to decide whether or not to vote, with even most Democrats (60%) agreeing with this.

Asked whether the vote is a duty or a privilege, 38% of Americans say that voting is a duty of being a citizen, and 53% think that the vote is more of a privilege.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

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