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Exclusive poll: Majority expects foreign meddling in midterms

Data: Survey Monkey poll conducted May 23-26, 2018. Poll methodology; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A majority of Americans believe it is very or somewhat likely that a foreign government will try to interfere in this year’s midterm elections, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll — and yet a slightly larger majority are very or somewhat confident that votes will be accurately counted this year.

The big picture: Security experts worry that a too-vocal discussion of election vulnerabilities could discourage participation by Americans who feel their votes won't count. Yet the survey results suggest that even widespread fear of foreign meddling isn't undermining deeper trust in the election system.

The catch: Fourteen states still lack full capacity to go back and double-check the accuracy of electronic tallies, which might give pause to some of the 64% who express confidence in those counts. On the other hand, as Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, points out, those vulnerabilities represent a risk, not a certainty, that something could go wrong.

The numbers that matter:

  • There are fewer Americans willing to say they are very confident that votes will be accurately counted. Just 24% said in the Axios/SurveyMonkey poll they are “very confident” votes will be accurately counted now, compare to about 35% in a similar poll by Gallup just two years ago.
  • Democrats worry more than Republicans about election hacking (54% of Democrats compared to 44% of Republicans).

Paper vs. digital: 75% of Americans trust their votes will be accurately counted when using paper ballots, while a slightly smaller percentage of Americans (68%) trust their votes will be accurately counted when using electronic voting machines.

Similarly, Americans are more worried about electronic machines getting "hacked or manipulated" (67%) than about tampering with paper ballots (48%).

Audits over recounts: Americans of both parties prefer routine audits of randomly selected precincts after every election — that's the accepted gold standard of validating election results in the election security community — to just auditing or recounting in very close election outcomes (59% to 38%).

Methodology: This new Axios/SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted May 23-26, 2018 among 2,499 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate for the full sample is 2.5 percentage points. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day.

Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over. Crosstabs available here.