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Support for voting access plunges among Republicans: poll

The vast majority of Americans favor a broad swath of proposals that would markedly expand voter access to the ballot box each year, but a new study finds a growing partisan chasm as Republican voters begin voicing new skepticism about absentee and early voting after former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE blamed access to the ballot box for his electoral loss last year.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found a substantial majority of Americans back reforms that would make accessing the ballot easier: More than three-quarters favor at least two weeks of early voting before Election Day. Seven in 10 back allowing convicted felons to win back their right to vote after they have served their sentences. Six in 10 support automatically registering every eligible citizen to vote.

But among partisans, the differences of opinion are substantial.

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More than 8 in 10 Democratic voters or those who lean toward Democrats say any voter should have the option to vote early or by absentee without needing an excuse. Just 38 percent of Republicans agree, down 19 points since Pew asked the same question in late 2018.

Today, 82 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners say every eligible citizen should be automatically registered to vote. Only 38 percent of Republicans say the same, down 11 points since 2018.

Democrats are about 50 percent more likely to say that early voting should be available for at least two weeks before Election Day than are Republicans. Democrats are about two-thirds more likely to say that convicted felons should get their voting rights back.

And Republicans are more than twice as likely to say that voters who have not cast a ballot lately should be purged from the voting rolls, a move that Democrats see as a blatant attack on low-income and minority voters.

Three years ago, just 53 percent of Republicans said voters who rarely cast ballots should be removed from the rolls. Today, that figure is up to 68 percent.

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“There are sizable — and, in some cases, growing — partisan divisions over many of these policies, largely because of changes in opinions among Republicans,” the authors wrote.

If there is one area of agreement among both Democratic and Republican voters, it is over the notion of showing a government-issued identification at the polls. Three-quarters of all voters — including 61 percent of those who consider themselves Democrats or Democratic leaners — say they support requiring voters to show some form of identification.

The debate over voting rights and access has been fought since the founding of the Republic, but in recent years the battle has taken on new and darker tones. Trump’s false claims of election fraud for which he never even bothered to offer evidence has spurred state legislators in many states to offer new measures that would curb access to voting or increase security, in the name of restoring trust that Trump and his Republican allies are responsible for undermining.

In recent weeks, corporations and civil rights groups have put pressure on states like Georgia, Texas and Arizona, where legislators have passed or are on the brink of passing new election reform measures written by Republican legislators. Those measures would take substantial steps toward reducing the availability of absentee and early balloting, curbing ballot drop boxes and cutting off some early voting windows.

The partisan divide between voters mirrors itself in racial breakdowns of those who were surveyed. Black voters are far more likely to say early voting should be available for at least two weeks before Election Day, that felons should win back their right to vote or that rare voters should remain on the voting rolls than their white counterparts.

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And there are signs that attitudes about voting access are changing over time. Younger Republicans and Republican-leaning voters skew more closely to the national average on key voting access questions than their older conservative allies.

Among those Republicans under 35 years old, 46 percent say all eligible citizens should automatically be registered to vote; among Republicans over the age of 65, that share drops to 32 percent. Among the youngest cohort, 63 percent say felons who have served their sentences should be allowed to vote again; just 47 percent of the oldest Republicans say the same.

The Pew Research Center surveyed 5,109 American adults between April 5-11. The poll carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.