Those struggling with housing debt less likely to vote – study

by Ryan Smith09 Oct 2020

People struggling to meet their housing costs are least likely to vote on Election Day, according to a new study from Apartment List.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout have been major issues in this year’s presidential race, and President Donald Trump has recently contracted the virus himself.

“Amid this continued volatility, we find that widespread struggles with housing costs have been troublingly stable since the start of the pandemic,” said study authors Igor Popov, Rob Warnock and Chris Salviati.

Seventy-one percent of homeowners made a complete on-time mortgage payment in October, down from 73% in September. October is still an improvement over August, which had the highest rate of missed mortgage payments since Apartment List began the survey in April.

The share of renters who made complete on-time payments in October increased slightly, with 31% failing to pay on time. That represents the best rate of on-time payment since the survey began in April.

“Homeowners are also a bit more likely than renters to complete their housing payments by the end of the month, with only 8 percent having failed to make a full mortgage payment for September by the first week of October,” the study authors wrote.

Despite improvements since August, the percentage of Americans struggling to meet their housing costs is substantial – and that contingent is less likely to vote in November, Popov, Warnock and Salviati said.

“As the election rapidly approaches, we asked this month’s survey respondents about their intent to vote on November 3rd,” they wrote. “The results point to a concerning trend in the way that economic hardship interacts with political participation.”

The study found that those who entered October with unpaid housing bills from previous months are significantly less likely to say that they will definitely vote in the upcoming election.

“Among homeowners, 87 percent of those who started the month without any unpaid mortgage bills plan to vote, compared to just 60 percent of those who had unpaid bills,” the study authors wrote. “We observe a similarly large gap between renters who are fully caught up on their rent payments and those who have outstanding rent debt.”

The disparity isn’t explained by political preference, the study found. “We find that rent debt and missed housing payments are common across the political spectrum, and missed payment rates were consistent across respondents in counties that Trump won and counties that Clinton won in 2016,” Popov, Warnock and Salviati wrote. “Those with no unpaid housing bills report being more likely to vote regardless of whether they report leaning Democrat or Republican.”