In the recent US presidential election, there were several states which looked almost certain wins for Donald Trump until the postal votes were counted, after which there was a huge swing towards Joe Biden.

But why is this? I know Trump raised concerns before the election that postal voting would somehow allow fraud. But why would this mean that his supporters would avoid voting by post?

And furthermore is it known whether this damaged his chances? i.e. that some of his supporters were so worried about the potential fraud that he alleged, but didn't make it to the polling station for whatever reason, that they did not vote at all?

Or is it simply that they made the extra effort to make it to the polling station? (or that less of Biden's supporters went to the polling station, being fully confident in the validity of postal voting)

  • 1
    Comments deleted - please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer the question, post a real answer.
    – CDJB
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:46
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    The corollaries would be to ask to what extent and why did in-person voting favor the incumbent. Jan 12, 2021 at 22:19
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    Does this answer your question? Why are Democrats more likely to vote by mail than Republicans?
    – Mast
    Jan 14, 2021 at 20:02
  • I know this question is voted so high because of how the Hot Network Questions work, but I'm stumped a question this broad is still open.
    – Mast
    Jan 14, 2021 at 20:02
  • For what it's worth, there were also states where the mail-in results were quickly released, giving Biden the lead, but as precincts reported in, Trump gained faster. See AZ and NC, for example. That doesn't address why mail ballots favored Biden, but does show that the swing worked both ways. (It just worked for Biden more often, because of how much longer mail-ins take to count)
    – Bobson
    Jan 15, 2021 at 18:29

12 Answers 12


The Democrats strongly supported voting by mail due to Covid-19, to avoid risk of infection, while Trump downplayed the pandemic.

ScienceDaily: COVID-19 opens a partisan gap on voting by mail

This is a case in Texas where Democrats attempted to extend mail voting: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/26/coronavirus-supreme-court-rejects-universal-vote-by-mail-in-texas.html

  • Note that Texas already had an extensive system for early voting, which allowed voters to avoid large crowds and long wait times. Presumably the risk of infection for early voting was still somewhat higher than mail-in, but once the risk was made less than other activities such as grocery shopping, it effectively ceases to be an issue..
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 12, 2021 at 16:59
  • 48
    @Ben Voigt: Not really, because even if the risk is lowered, it is still a risk, and unlike grocery shopping, an unnecessary one. Voting by mail works perfectly well: Oregon has done it for years, Nevada did it in primary & general elections with no problems, &c.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 12, 2021 at 17:02
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Jan 14, 2021 at 8:14

Donald Trump spent months making statements, to the media and on Twitter, along the lines of:

Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There’s tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality. (source)

It's hardly surprising that Republican voters decided to take him at his word and not trust mail-in ballots.

  • 65
    In fact, liberal media expected that increased mail-in voting would lead to more invalid votes due to complexity. Also, since we now know that Trump never intended to accept an election result in which he lost, he probably only wanted to create a pretext to throw out mail-in ballots as "illegitimate", reducing Democrats' votes.
    – Erik Hart
    Jan 11, 2021 at 17:26
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    True, but I'm not sure this is answering the q which already said that "I know Trump raised concerns before the election that postal voting would somehow allow fraud. But why would this mean that his supporters would avoid voting by post?" Your answer is merely that that is "hardly surprising". Jan 11, 2021 at 23:16
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    @user17915 The argument was not that the votes would be falsified ("rigged") but that fewer mail-in votes would be delivered in time to be valid. There was a lot of pressure exerted to try to make sure delivery would not be curtailed. Jan 12, 2021 at 2:20
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    @Fizz The implication was your vote would be lost or frauded if mailed-in. In-person was the only sure way Jan 12, 2021 at 7:02
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    @Fizz The OP underplays Trumps attitude to mail-in. Rather than just "raise concerns", he out-and-out rejected it. So it is indeed "hardly surprising" his followers followed his very clear instructions. Jan 12, 2021 at 16:57

I think the other answers are correct in that both of these are factors:

  • Trump and some of the Republican leadership (repeatedly) slamming postal voting
  • Republicans being less afraid of Covid-19 and thus less inclined to socially distance (also reflected in some of Trump's comments on the pandemic and his personal example)

Alas answers (and comments) have mostly posited one or the other (of the above two) as being the main factor (and even downvoted answers that suggested the other one), but without any data to support which was the main contributor.

It's probably difficult to ascertain the separate contribution of these factors. It's much easier to notice the trend over time though in the divergence of Democrat and Republican opinions on mail-in voting in 2020, e.g. from a UCSD/Lucid series of surveys:

We find a significant, growing gap over how citizens want to cast a ballot. In April, 40 percent of Democrats said they would like to vote by mail, while 30 percent of Republicans indicated the same. By June, that gap had grown to 20 percentage points, with 45 percent of Democrats saying they’d vote by mail to 25 percent of Republicans. By August, half of all Democrats said they want to vote by mail this election, while only a quarter of Republicans said they would, for a gap of 25 percentage points.

We saw the same pattern in how respondents want others to vote. When asked in April whether they support sending mail ballots to any voter who requests one, 87 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans agreed, for a gap of 23 percentage points. By August, this gap grew to 33 percentage points. Over 80 percent of Democrats supported this policy, while Republicans were essentially evenly divided between supporting and opposing absentee voting by request, which is in place in most states, including nearly every swing state in the presidential election.

Why do so many more Democrats than Republicans plan to vote by mail?

One clear explanation of the growing gap has been well documented: Partisans often take cues from their party’s elites, as scholarship has long found. When Trump criticizes voting by mail, as he frequently does, Republicans take note. When other Republican politicians reiterate Trump’s comments, the cue is made even more clear.

But we found another possible reason: Republicans and Democrats respond differently to information about the pandemic. When we showed respondents projections about how the pandemic would probably unfold, Democrats became more likely to want to vote by mail. Republicans did not.

Reading the projections had the biggest effect in April. As both the pandemic and the election campaigns unfolded, covid-19 projections mattered less. At the same time, the differences in Democrats’ and Republicans’ plans grew. This suggests that Americans’ opinions crystallized somewhat over the summer as those two groups’ views of the pandemic diverged.

(Besides the WaPo article in which those academics popularized their findings, they've also published PNAS paper on the topic.)

Alas, while it's thus fairly easy to establish both as (probable) causative factors, even that research did not attempt to quantify the relative weight of each factor, which may actually be no easy task...

(An interesting aside to note is that back in April, many more Republicans than Democrats said the election was going to be conducted fairly.

Fewer than half of Democrats (46%) were even somewhat confident in an accurate and fair election, compared with 75% of Republicans. And Democrats were deeply concerned over whether all citizens would be able to vote: Just 43% of Democrats said they were very or somewhat confident all citizens who want to vote would be able to do so, while about twice as many Republicans (87%) were confident all citizens would be able to vote if they wanted to.

The expansion of (no excuse) mail-in voting in response to Covid-19 seems to have been negatively correlated with that relative split of opinions on the matter between Republicans and Democrats. Or at least this much was clear from another April survey:

According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in April, over half (58%) of Americans are in favor of permanently changing laws to allow everyone to vote by mail. However, there is a very large partisan divide with only 31 percent of Republicans agreeing, compared to 82 percent of Democrats.

Perhaps more relevant to the "why" question at hand though:

A Pew Research study conducted in June also found similar results when they looked at support for so-called “no excuse” early voting, or voting early without requiring a documented reason. [...] The Pew poll found that among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, an overwhelming majority (83%) support no excuse early voting compared to only 44 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners. Furthermore, among the remaining 55 percent of Republicans who think a documented reason should be required to vote early, 37 percent say the COVID-19 pandemic should not be considered a valid reason, while only 17 percent think it should be a considered a valid reason.

These differences go to the very core of what people think maintains the security of elections. Nearly eight in ten Democrats (79%) believe that changing election rules to make absentee ballot voting more available would make it easier to vote and would not jeopardize the security of the elections. A majority of Republicans (59%) disagreed, saying that making voting easier would have an effect on election security.

This partisan framing of this issue is a recent occurrence. This year, polls showed that over half (62%) of Democrats planned to vote early, while only 28 percent of Republicans planned the same. Historically, this partisan difference has been no more than about two percentage points. Additionally, in the past, differences in opinions on this topic were driven mostly by geographic location rather than party affiliation, with people who live in the western states being much more likely to vote by mail.

Alas the way that last survey was structured doesn't allow definitive conclusions (either) on the "why did Republicans oppose", but there's clearly some overlap in factors: Covid-19 not being seen as a valid excuse (on one hand) and the broader (Republican) view that mail-in voting would worsen security (on the other hand).

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    This feels.like the most comprehensive answer to.me.
    – Stilez
    Jan 12, 2021 at 11:08
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    Though it should also include opinions from non-partisan voters, if they're available. Also consider states like Oregon, which voted by mail before the pandemic, and Nevada, where every voter got a mail-in ballot, and about half used it.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 12, 2021 at 17:16
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    It's also worth pointing out that long waiting times for in-person voting are more prevalent in areas with more low-income and non-white residents ( bipartisanpolicy.org/report/the-2018-voting-experience ) and both groups tend to vote democratic.
    – timeskull
    Jan 12, 2021 at 17:43
  • One nit: I'd list #45's "personal example" as "personal counter-example". Jan 12, 2021 at 21:58
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    This is a very good answer, but I'd add a reason 2a to it: Republicans are much less likely to live in very dense city centers than Democrats are and, thus, the risk associated with them voting in person actually is much lower than for the average Democrat. To use myself as an example, in the suburban-ish town where I live, I waited in a line of exactly zero people to vote in person on election day. I spent less than 2 minutes on site for the entire process and everyone was wearing a mask and maintaining distancing. Compare that to the risk of dense urban precincts with hours-long lines.
    – reirab
    Jan 14, 2021 at 1:45

The Trump campaign did a lot to demonize mail in voting with accusations that there was a lot of fraud with it. This along with the downplaying of covid among his supporters likely led to a lower mail in voting turnout and higher in person turnout.

There was a concern among Republicans that the campaign against mail in voting would cost votes in the long run.


Bishop said he's encountered a recurring problem: Many Republicans are "skittish" about voting by mail. He pointed to strong anti-vote-by-mail rhetoric from Trump, who regularly assails mail voting as fraudulent and an attempt by Democrats to "rig the presidential election." This week, Trump tweeted that mail-in voting would lead to the "most corrupt election in our nation's history!"

"What the president is doing when he keeps saying that this mail-in balloting thing is fraudulent, he's scaring our own voters from using a legit way to cast your ballot," Bishop said. "We're kind of hurting ourselves, and I don't think that's the wisest way to go."


Persons who voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump tend to be younger, paid less, and more in favor of masks/less likely of voting in person during a pandemic.

Younger people tend to have less schedule flexibility as they are still working their way up in the corporate world (or are working non-9-to-5 hours in the retail/service sectors). This would lead them to be more likely to vote remotely (by mail in this case).

Persons who are paid less would be less likely to take time off during a workday (as election day is a non-holiday Tuesday in the US) as that may directly eat into their bottom line. If the perception (whether or not it matches reality) is that the lines will be long at their polling place, mail in voting seems the smarter choice if the alternative is to make less money when cash is already potentially tight.

During a pandemic, any interaction with other persons is an opportunity to spread the disease. Persons who tend to believe more in the scientific community and masking up may be less willing to stand in line during a pandemic for anything, making mail in voting a much more attractive proposition.

  • 1
    Employers can be required to allow time off to vote but this does not explain why the many Trump supporters who are in the same position with working on election day didn't vote by mail. There is a large number of voters on both sides that have trouble getting time off to vote.
    – Joe W
    Jan 11, 2021 at 17:15
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    @JoeW Not much value in being "allowed" time off if you need the money. Jan 11, 2021 at 17:58
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    Downoted because all this, while it may or may not be true, is simply ignoring the main reason: Trump's repeated claims about mail-in ballots being insecure &c.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 11, 2021 at 19:00
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    @jamesqf IMHO your reasons are equally likely as the ones presented in the answer. They are both highly likely to be contributing factors. Jan 12, 2021 at 1:39
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    If it helps broaden your thinking, I'm a overweight diabetic 63-year-old white male former-military-officer mask-wearing Republican - but I am NOT an idiot. I voted, by mail, in Ohio, for Biden. Jan 12, 2021 at 3:33

Concern over COVID19 seems to have a relationship to political leaning

This study shows these differences fairly starkly*.

Democrats are much more concerned with the transmission of the virus than republicans:

COVID19 opinion by party

By June 77% of Dem/Lean Dem participants answered that they were concerned they might unknowingly spread COVID-19 to others compared to 45% of Rep/Lean Rep voters. It isn't then a huge jump to suspect that a concern you may spread the virus would make you limit the amount of time spent in close proximity to others.

Another question focusing on how comfortable people felt in different locations shows a similar picture:

Concerns over visiting locations Democrat vs Republican

You can see a clear discrepancy here in how comfortable each group feels in public (or not so public) places.

There are many more visualisations for this in the linked study but those are the two

*It is worth noting that the study has a few caveats - it relies on questionnaires (what people say they do and what they actually do can often be different) and it is a dip test for opinions in June - months before the election.


Trump had become less popular with the electorate as a whole, voters favored Biden, so the vote counts necessarily reflect that. As for why Biden voters went postal more often that Trump voters, there are three reasons:

  1. COVID. Most of the nation took COVID seriously, and wished to avoid the horrific possibility of superspreader voting lines.

    As reirab's answer notes, more Republican voters live in suburban and rural areas, while Democrat voters are concentrated in urban areas. Discounting several other factors, any contagious disease like COVID is more dangerous in densely populated areas. So Democrat voters faced greater statistical risk of encountering contagious people, and awareness of that risk made them relatively more cautious than Republicans.

  2. A more general public awareness of Voter Suppression inspired a skeptical public to take advantage of early voting and voting by mail.

  3. Team Trump was aware of the probable outcome of widespread voting by mail, and attempted to reduce public trust in voting by mail by various strategems such as appointing a crony to mismanage the job of Postmaster General,and fomenting overblown but statistically meaningless fears of voter fraud and postal fraud. Voters living in a Trumpian filter bubble tended to uncritically believe in such bogeymen, and therefore dutifully avoided voting by mail.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Jan 15, 2021 at 20:51

Two theories: fraud or because many more Democrats than Republicans voted using mail-in ballots. We have no credible evidence of fraud. We have polls indicating that more Democrats than Republicans intended to vote by mail:

But among Trump supporters, only 11 percent said they planned to vote by mail, and 66 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. Among Joe Biden backers, 47 percent said they planned to vote by mail, while only 26 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. (The share who said they would vote early in person was consistently 20-21 percent among all three groups: Trump supporters, Biden supporters and voters overall.) [...]

In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll overall, Biden led Trump by 9 percentage points among registered voters. But Biden led Trump by 63 points (!) among voters who planned to vote by mail, and Trump led Biden by 33 points among voters who planned to vote in person on Election Day.

Biden’s Voters Appear Far More Likely To Vote By Mail Than Trump’s. That Could Make For A Weird Election Night. (August 28, 2020)

From Deutsche Welle:

Of the registered voters who plan to cast their ballot, 51% of Biden supporters say they will vote by mail, whereas 39% of Trump supporters said they will do the same. An estimated 50% of Trump supporters will vote in person on Election Day, whereas only 20% of Biden supporters plan to do the same.

US election: Which political party benefits from mail-in voting? (October 31, 2020)

Conclusion: mail-in ballots favored Biden because more Democrats than Republicans voted by mail. It is not known why more Democrats than Republicans decided to vote by mail this year. Usually, it doesn't favor the Democrats.

Do mail-in ballots benefit Democrats or Republicans? The answer is neither, according to available data. Two independent studies published this year found little evidence to support the claim that just one party benefits. Instead, the research shows that while voter turnout slightly increased — neither of the two heavyweight parties benefited.

While the DW article claims that vote by mail only slightly increases turnout, another article indicates that the effect could be larger:

But research suggests that mail-in voting could increase overall voter turnout.

Barber has found1 that in presidential and midterm general elections between 1992 and 2018, counties in some states that switched to mandatory postal voting saw an increase of between 1.8 and 2.9 percentage points in the number of residents who voted. And a separate study from Colorado showed that the state’s decision to implement all-postal voting in 2014 increased voter participation by 9.4 percentage points.

The researchers involved note that the increased turnout came from people in specific demographics. “There was a disproportionate increase for people who have historically faced greater barriers to voting: young people, Black voters, people with less education and less wealth,” says Charlotte Hill, a public-policy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the Colorado analysis.

COVID and the US election: will the rise of mail-in voting affect the result? (October 23, 2020)

According to one interesting statistic the share of voters intending to vote by mail dropped from 38 percent to 33 percent in just a few weeks in August 2020:

However, amid saturation coverage of problems with the U.S. Postal Service, new polling from CNBC/Change Research suggests that the number of Americans planning to vote by mail has ticked down. In early August, 38 percent of voters in six battleground states1 said they planned to vote by mail. But in the pollster’s just-released Aug. 21-23 poll, the number of voters in those states saying they planned to vote by mail was down to 33 percent.

So perhaps the most obvious explanation is the correct one; because Trump maligned mail-in voting, Republicans who might otherwise have voted by mail instead voted in person.

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    Looking at the number of votes cast, it might be better to phrase that last sentence as "Because Trump maligned mail-in voting, Republicans who might otherwise have voted by mail instead voted in person."
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 12, 2021 at 0:05
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    @BenVoigt That is true but I think it's fair to assert that people who are more left-leaning in the US are also more likely to take the pandemic more seriously than those who lean right. Record numbers of people chose to mail in ballots and it seems obvious that most of them were always voting Biden. I don't think this is disputed but I haven't seen it mentioned in these answers or comments.
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 12, 2021 at 15:50
  • If your Deutsche Weile article is from October 2020 (before the election), then its conclusions have been overtaken by events. While in the past the Rep/Dem ratio on mail-in might've been similar, in the 2020 Presidential it was strongly skewed towards the Dems. This was evidently because one candidate recommended mail-in and the other discouraged it. Jan 12, 2021 at 17:13
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    Re "it is not known why more Democrats than Republicans decided to vote by mail this year", it may not be "known" (what are your standards for considering this to be "known"?) for certain across the country, however it's no big surprise. Avoiding unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 was certainly a consideration for us, though we vote by mail anyway to avoid having to drive and stand in line, and to have the chance to talk things over and look stuff up without holding up a line. Jan 12, 2021 at 22:06

Interesting story, that.

All during the pandemic, Trump had been releasing statements that were at best downplaying its seriousness, and in many cases flat out lying about its risks. He'd also been publicly attacking the credibility of those who weren't downplaying it, like the WHO and the nation's top health professionals.

Republicans at the time were far more willing to Trust the President's word than Democrats were. In fact, eschewing COVID prevention measures became a way to mark your Republican identity. This meant there became a huge partisan disparity on how seriously Americans took the pandemic.

Now Democratic leaders seeing this got worried both that election-day polling might become supspreader events, and that the partisan divide in voters' fears of COVID was quite likely to help Trump on election day. So they spent at lot of time and effort promoting absentee balloting for those with COVID-related fears. Republicans, after all these assurances from a president they largely trusted, weren't nearly as likely to ask for a mail-in ballot.

enter image description here

The result of all this is that it became pretty clear in the months before the November election that the absentee/mail-in ballots this year, unlike in years past, was likely to be heavily Democratic.

Seeing this partisan divide, Trump started spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about mail-in ballots. This included an apparent campaign by his Postal Service appointees to slow the mail down prior to the election.

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    I know there are a lot of answers, but most seemed to either blame Trumps rhetoric that he started in reaction to the upcoming partisan mail-in disparity (which is backwards), or didn't address his reaction at all.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 12, 2021 at 21:20
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    I considered bringing trump into it but ended up just focusing on the different opinions across the parties. We can guess at the reasons for those differences but they would just be guesses. Do his supporters downplay the seriousness of the pandemic because he does or did he down play it because that's what they believe and he is pandering to his audience? Jan 12, 2021 at 21:28
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    In general I am tying to avoid speculating about Trump's motivations, and just reporting what he did, the timings, and its effects. But you really can't talk about this question without talking about his role.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 12, 2021 at 21:44

tl;dr: The urban / suburban / rural divide is at play once more; this time in regards to pandemic-related risks to voting in person.

Fizz's excellent answer is completely correct that both of these issues factored in heavily:

  • Trump was extremely critical of mail-in voting throughout the entire election cycle. Even beyond that, though, Republicans in general have been much more critical of mail-in voting than Democrats since long before Covid was a concern. This debate has been going on for many years with Republicans generally opposed to generally-available absentee voting and Democrats more in favor. This ties in directly with Republicans being much more in favor of requiring voters to produce government-issued photo IDs to vote than Democrats, which obviously isn't done in the case of absentee voting. Thus, it's not surprising that a group that is less likely to support mail-in absentee voting is also less likely to use it. Though this has traditionally come with one large caveat in the past: active-duty military votes have generally favored Republicans and are much more likely than average to be cast by mail-in vote for reasons that should be obvious.

  • Republicans, on average, have been less concerned about the Covid pandemic than Democrats, thus were not as concerned, on average, with the risks of voting in person.

However, what I haven't seen mentioned in other answers so far is another important factor which plays into the second reason above: Republican voters are far less likely to live in densely-populated urban centers than Democrats are. In the 2016 Presidential election, many urban centers went from 70 to 90+ percent of the vote for Clinton, compared to only 48% over the country as a whole. Thus, it's not just a matter of Republicans, on average, perceiving less pandemic-related risk from voting in person, but also a matter of there actually being less risk from Republicans voting in person on average. While voting precincts in dense urban centers often have hours-long lines to vote, the rural or suburban precincts where the vast majority of Republicans live often have little-to-no line at all.

To use myself as an example, I live in a suburban-ish town with about 80,000 people in the county, the vast majority of which live in or near the main town. I almost always vote on election day and it's very rare that I am even inside the building for more than 5 minutes total. 2020 was no exception. I waited in a line of exactly zero people to be able to vote in person in the 2020 Presidential election, even on election day. I spent less than 2 minutes on-site. There were maybe 5 or 6 people in the whole precinct at the time, including the poll workers. Precincts in rural districts will be even less busy than in my more suburban one.

Furthermore, being in a suburban town rather than a dense city center, I came in contact with exactly no one from the time I left my house in my personal car until the time I arrived in the parking lot of the voting precinct, nor anyone from the time I re-entered my car to the time I arrived back at my house. This is a completely normal experience for rural or suburban voters, but is a stark contrast with the pandemic risks presented to in-person voters in dense urban centers. In those areas, housing is almost exclusively in apartments such that you can't even leave your residence without encountering other people. Car ownership also tends to be minimal in the more dense metro areas with transportation being more typically by crowded sidewalk, densely-packed trains/subways, etc. Even taxis or rideshares still have a driver who is not a member of your household in the vehicle with you.

The urban/suburban/rural vote divide in the U.S. cannot be easily overstated. Even in states where Republicans virtually always win state-wide elections (for example, Tennessee or Texas,) the dense urban districts go for Democrats by wide margins. Conversely, even in states where Democrats almost always win state-wide elections (for example, Illinois, New York, or California,) Republicans almost always win rural districts by wide margins and usually enjoy significant margins in suburban districts, too.

To demonstrate the effect, this map shows the 2016 U.S. Presidential general election results by county, with deeper red counties having wider margins in favor of Trump and deeper blue counties having wider margins in favor of Clinton. The only significant exceptions to the urban/rural divide across the entire country are certain rural areas with heavy minority populations (such as parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, and California) favoring Democrats.

2016 U.S. Presidential election results by county
2016 U.S. Presidential general election results by county. Source: Wikipedia

(Alaska isn't shaded because its political subdivisions aren't quite equivalent to the counties in others states, but, it should suffice to say that Alaska is red.)

So, in summary, while it's completely true that differences between the parties with regards to attitudes towards acceptance of pandemic risk and attitudes toward fraud potential in mail-in voting, the actual (not merely perceived) difference in pandemic-related risks between the average Democratic voter and the average Republican voter almost certainly also made a significant difference in why mail-in votes heavily favored President-Elect Biden.

  • But as a counter to this argument, people in rural districts often have to travel quite a distance to get to a polling place, especially for early voting. (In my case, 20+ miles for early voting.) So leaving out the rhetoric from Trump &c and the tradition factor (that is, I've always voted in person on election day, so that's what I'm going to keep on doing), and basing things entirely on convenience/practicality, one would think that rural voters would be much more inclined to vote by mail.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 14, 2021 at 21:51
  • @jamesqf At least where I live, that's a lot more true for early voting than for election day voting. We have one precinct in the county that does all of the in-person early voting. I'm not even sure how many we have on election day, but it's a lot (at least dozens?) Mine is 5 minutes from my house and that or less is common here. My point wasn't so much convenience and practicality, though, as pandemic-related risks. Mail-in voting actually doesn't favor Democrats by much (or possibly at all) in normal years, largely due to the popularity of mail-in voting among deployed military members.
    – reirab
    Jan 14, 2021 at 22:44
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    @jamesqf The primary point of my answer was that, while it's almost certainly true that Republicans, on average, perceive less risk from the pandemic than Democrats in equal circumstances, it's equally true that Republicans, on average, actually have less pandemic-associated risk from voting in person than Democrats. And that this is simply due to being much less likely to live in crowded urban centers where voting in person would usually requires being around far more people for a much longer duration than in the places where Republicans are more likely to live.
    – reirab
    Jan 14, 2021 at 22:50
  • Another factor here is that in many states - certainly mine - vote by mail wasn't easily available before this year. At the least, you had to apply for an absentee ballot. But this year every registered voter got a mail-in ballot.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 16, 2021 at 4:26

I'd like to answer the part you say about whether or not it damaged his chances. Is most definitely did, in the state of Georgia in particular.

And furthermore is it known whether this damaged his chances? i.e. that some of his supporters were so worried about the potential fraud that he alleged, but didn't make it to the polling station for whatever reason, that they did not vote at all?

According to Secretary of State for Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, Trump's rhetoric on mail-in votes most definitely did hinder his chances of winning there. The article here states that there were 24,000 voters who voted in the Republican primaries earlier that year, but did not vote absentee and also did not vote at all in person on election day. Trump could have won Georgia by several thousand votes had he not discouraged his base from voting by mail.

I'd like to point out that whilst this is the case in Georgia alone, and a flip to Trump would have still meant that he lost 290 - 248. There is no reason why what happened in Georgia did not happen anywhere else in the US. Two other states, Wisconsin and Arizona were under a margin on 1%. Several thousand votes in each of it. This could have caused the election to go to a 269 - 269 tie, brokering it to the House of Representatives and the Senate where he and Pence would have won.

  • It would be interesting to see how that number compares to other years and to Democrats. In the context of a state where 5.9 million people voted in the general election, 24,000 people voting in the primaries, but not in the general seems like it could pretty easily be explained by other factors (i.e. some portion of those presumably died, others were probably sick or had something come up last-minute on election day, others may have changed their mind and decided not to support Trump between the primary and the general election, etc.) With no control, determining causality is difficult.
    – reirab
    Feb 3, 2021 at 5:21

Your question might be read as "Did postal voting give Biden an unfair advantage", or it could read as "Did postal voting enable fraud to the advantage of Biden", which should also be addressed.

Fact is that in postal votes, Biden received a much higher percentage of votes than he received in in-person votes. So if someone, especially a sore loser, wants to spread conspiracy theories, they can easily claim that fraud took place.

There have been some crazy arguments, like after the in-person votes were counted, the chances of Biden getting that many postal votes without fraud were one in a quadrillion. (Why is that argument crazy? Because it can be turned around; with the huge lead that Biden got in the postal vote, the chances that Trump got that many in person votes without fraud are one in a quadrillion).

But there is a very common sense explanation: Through his campaign Trump told people that postal votes are fraud, and Covid is just a little flu, so his supporters would vote in person with no care of the risk of infection. Biden told people to stay away from in-person votes due to the Covid risk, so obviously his supporters used postal votes.

Would Trump have won without postal votes? Sure, if he was able to disenfranchise all postal voters, Trump would have won. That would be a massive fraud of course. If laws were changed long before the vote, then most of the Biden voters would have been forced to vote in person. So the in-person vote wouldn't have had the huge lead for Trump. Some people would not have voted, and that might have decided the vote for Trump.

But that doesn't mean "postal votes favored Biden" in any unfair way. Postal votes made it possible for more people to vote who were legally perfectly entitled to vote. In a democracy, one should try to get as many people to vote as possible. If that favours one party, then it is deservedly so.

PS. I read one deleted post. There were about 60 court cases, and in no single case did lawyers working for Trump show any plausible reason how there might have been voter fraud.

  • 1
    "Did postal voting give Biden an unfair advantage" - that's not what I meant at all - the question was inspired by hearing someone laughing at Trump, sort of "bet he wishes he didn't bad-mouth postal voting now!", whereas I think it wouldn't have made a difference and that he'd have about the same number of votes whether they were cast through the post or at the polling station.
    – komodosp
    Jan 14, 2021 at 11:30
  • Your text calls anyone who makes wrong conclusion a "sore loser". Also, courts' decisions doesn't really matter, the dismissal of video evidence of highly suspicious suitcase at Atlanta polling just before ballot counting illustrates that. Mar 21 at 19:53

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