Electoral Studies
Article/journal, Government & politics, Innovation, Technology & society, Policy, Elections & Representation Lab, Munk School

Communicating safety precautions can help maintain in-person voter turnout during a pandemic

Scholars have linked cost and life stress to lower voter turnout with clear implications for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask whether COVID-19 reduces turnout intention and how election agencies can mitigate this effect. We use a series of six survey and conjoint experiments implemented in samples totalling over 28,000 Canadian respondents collected between July and November of 2020 to show that: 1) priming people to think about COVID-19 reduces turnout intention, especially among those who feel most threatened by the disease; 2) safety measures for in-person voting, such as mandatory masks and physical distancing, can improve safety perceptions and willingness to vote in-person, and 3) providing people information about safety precautions for in-person voting mitigates the negative effect of priming COVID-19. These studies illustrate the importance of both the implementation and communication of measures by election agencies designed to make people safe – and feel safe – while voting in-person.