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


Merkley et al. (2022)

Does COVID-19 reduces turnout intention? If so, how can election agencies mitigate this effect?


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.

The paper can be found here (Pre-print and Replication).