Escambia Supervisor of Elections Releases Results of Haas Center Voter Satisfaction Study

Pensacola – The Haas Center at the University of West Florida and The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office have released the results of a study of voter satisfaction in Escambia County.

“For quite some time, we have wanted to conduct a study to try to gauge voter attitudes and opinions in Escambia County,” said David Stafford, Escambia County supervisor of elections. “The Haas Center was able to identify grand funding that made this project possible.”

The study, conducted by Haas Center researchers during the 2016 primary and general election, assessed the ease and efficiency of the voting process and the voters’ knowledge of voting options, locations and other general election information.

“During this process, we were able to gather feedback from nearly 2,500 voters about their satisfaction with the voting process, confidence in elections and knowledge about the election system,” said Amy Newburn, assistant director of the Haas Center.

The study found:

• Ninety-nine percent of voters rated poll workers’ performances as “excellent” or “good.”
• Almost all voters said they had no problem finding their polling location.
• Ninety-six percent of voters had to wait in line five minutes or less.
• Overwhelmingly, respondents reported they had no difficulty marking and casting their ballot.
• Ninety percent strongly agreed that their ballot privacy was protected; another 7.7 percent somewhat agreed.
• More than 82 percent of respondents consider SoE mail correspondence as helpful.

“We weren’t shocked to see the incredibly high satisfaction with the SoE’s customer service – these numbers were overwhelmingly positive for the general election and the primary,” Newburn said. “This included high satisfaction with voting locations, poll workers and ease of use of the ballot.”

Newburn said the researchers were surprised by respondents’ views of the national election.

“Voters became less confident that all of the ballots were counted as the voters intended when they were asked to consider larger geographies,” she said. “So, 93 percent of people were confident their individual vote was counted as intended, but only 79 percent were confident that all the nation’s ballots were counted as intended.”

Voter fraud was also on respondents’ minds.

“Nearly a third of voters identified voter fraud and national or international hackers as a threat to the security of our local election,” Newburn said. “That definitely indicates security was on the brain of voters, and many felt it was an issue even in their own county.”

Newburn said working with Escambia County was a rewarding experience for the researchers.

“The poll workers and SoE staff were incredibly welcoming to Haas research assistants when they visited early voting sites and individual precincts,” she said. “The SoE leadership was a willing and eager partner to collaborate with us on this project. They were willing to ask important questions to delve into voter insecurities or assess voter knowledge, which shows how invested they were in doing high-quality research.”

Stafford said working with the Haas Center was a positive experience and that the study results provide his office with a baseline for future research opportunities.

“We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with UWF and others in initiating this survey,” Stafford said. “The results are encouraging, and we look forward to using the data to provide an even better voter experience for the citizens of Escambia County in the future.”

Amy Newburn is the assistant director of the UWF Haas Center at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.