A majority of Americans support voter identification laws, according to a recent Fox News poll.

In the wake of the 2010 mid-term elections, during which Republicans swept into many state legislatures and governor’s mansions, voter ID requirements became a prominent and divisive issue. Thirty-one states have active voter ID laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Proponents—mostly Republican lawmakers and officials—say the measures are necessary to protect the integrity of the voting process. Opponents—mostly Democrats and civil rights activists—argue there is little evidence of voter fraud and that the laws instead unfairly disenfranchise minorities, the young and the elderly.

The Fox News poll, however, found overwhelming support for the laws in almost every demographic including among Democrats and African-Americans.

“Supporters of these laws say they are necessary to stop ineligible people from voting illegally,” the poll asked. “Opponents say these laws are unnecessary and mostly discourage legal voters from voting. What do you think?”

According to the survey, seven in 10 Americans support voter ID laws. Unsurprisingly, 91 percent of Republicans say such laws are necessary. More surprisingly, according to the poll, 55 percent of Democrats share that belief.

Broken down by race, African-American respondents were the least likely to support such measures, at 46 percent. A slim majority, 51 percent, agreed they were necessary for preventing individuals from voting illegally.

The Republican Party has lauded the poll as a sign it is on the right path.

“While the media wants to characterize voter ID laws as an affront to Black Americans, this poll shows the Republican Party and the majority of Black voters are on the same side of this issue,” Orlando Watson, the Republican National Committee’s communications director for Black media, said in a statement.

That assessment may be a bit hasty, political analyst Jason Johnson told the AFRO.

“Do I believe these are the results they got? Sure,” he said. “Do I believe these results are indicative of what the majority of people think? Not at all.”

Polls can be malleable, therefore credence is usually given to a finding when two or three polls and different surveys conducted by different persons or organizations reach the same conclusion, said Johnson, a political science and communications professor at Hiram College in Ohio. A poll that arrives at a particularly divergent opinion should be viewed with skepticism, he said.

“You can’t believe the outlier,” Johnson said.

In the case of the FOX poll, the outcome among Democrats and Blacks in particular, “doesn’t seem to pass the smell test,” the political analyst said.

The manner in which the questions were framed also raises some concern, he added.

“There were a lot of leading questions about voter ID laws, Benghazi and other issues that were worded in a way that would lead people to answer in a particular way,” Johnson said.

In the case of voter ID laws, for example, those measures are taken out of the broader context of voter suppression efforts such as cuts to early voting, same-day registration and the like which could change the way people respond.

“The whole question is rigged in a way to prime people to think about voter fraud especially since it doesn’t mention that there aren’t a lot of cases of voter fraud,” Johnson said.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO