From the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation:
Majorities of voters support a number of bold reforms to change how members of Congress are elected, including redrawing congressional districts by independent citizen commissions, ranked choice voting and multi-member districts, according to a new, in-depth survey from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation. These three reforms comprise new legislation – The Fair Representation Act – sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA.) and cosponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
The highest level of support was for changing the way that House congressional districts are designed—a prominent issue now that the Supreme Court is considering whether the federal government should prevent state legislatures from designing congressional districts to the benefit of the dominant party, popularly known as gerrymandering.
Two thirds of respondents – including 53 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents – favored having congressional districts drawn by a nonpartisan commission of citizens.
The survey of 2,482 registered voters was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), and released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People (VOP). Neither VOP nor PPC take a position on the issues, but seek to the give the public a greater voice.
“As the Supreme Court justices consider the question of how best to design congressional districts, they may want to consider an approach supported by a large bipartisan majority of American voters,” said PPC Director Steven Kull.
To ensure that respondents understood the issues, they were given a short briefing on the proposals and asked to evaluate arguments for and against. The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the legislation to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the arguments presented were the strongest ones being made.
‘Ranked choice voting,’ or ‘instant runoff’ voting also received majority support from respondents. This is a method for electing members of Congress when there are more than two candidates. Voters select not only their most preferred candidate, but also their second choice, third-choice and so on. This method is meant to make it more possible for independent and third-party candidates to be competitive.
This proposal was favored by 55 percent, including 64 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. Only 46 percent of Republicans favored the idea, with 52 percent opposed.
Resistance to the idea is fairly low. In a separate question just 29% said the idea would be unacceptable, including 37% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats, with the remainder saying it would be tolerable or acceptable.
Similar levels of support were found for a third measure to create ‘multi-member districts.’ This would be a new way of structuring Congressional districts with larger districts represented by 3-5 members, making it more likely that the partisan mix of the members would more closely reflect the partisan balance of the population.
This proposal was favored by 55 percent, including 66 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents. Among Republicans, only 44 percent favored the idea with 53 percent opposed. But here too opposition was not strongly held – only 27 percent said it would be unacceptable, including 34 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats.
The survey was conducted online from September 7- October 3, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,482 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 2.0 percent.