WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The 2020 election was unique in American politics. For the first time, an incumbent president lost the popular and electoral college votes but refused to concede the election, claiming without evidence that widespread fraud tainted the results. Yet U.S. history is rife with examples of contested election results and fraud claims. Was 2020 different in significant ways, and does that raise serious concerns about the health of our democracy?
Today, the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group releases two reports that shed light on these crucial questions. The reports – “Theft Perception: Examining the Views of Americans Who Believe the 2020 Election was Stolen,” by Lee Drutman of New America, and “Crisis of Confidence: How Election 2020 Was Different,” by Robert Griffin and Mayesha Quasem of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group – suggest that 2020 was indeed unique and that faith in our democracy has been shaken to an unprecedented degree.
“Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our democracy, but it’s also important that the public trusts the results of those elections. Unfortunately, the 2020 election cycle and actions of former President Trump have shaken that trust,” Voter Study Group Research Director Robert Griffin said. “These reports provide details that help us understand how Americans perceive the electoral process, which may help policymakers address this serious crisis in confidence.”
“It’s not uncommon to have some claims of voter fraud and lower trust among the losing party after elections, but 2020 stands out for the intensity and scale of mistrust in the election,” said Mayesha Quasem, research associate at Voter Study Group. “All of this raises serious concerns about the stability of our democracy going forward."
Key findings – Crisis of Confidence
- A week after the 2020 presidential election, the overwhelming majority (93%) of Biden voters said that they were confident that the election was conducted fairly and accurately, but only 29% of Trump voters said the same. There was almost no difference in confidence between these groups in the week before Election Day.
- The percentage of Trump voters in 2020 who said they were not at all confident that their vote was tallied accurately was more than four times as high as the percentage of Clinton voters who said the same in 2016 (35% vs 8%).
- Fifty nine percent of Americans said that permanent harm had been done to the United States as a result of the election process.
Theft Perception takes a closer look at the rise of the Stop the Steal movement sparked by former President Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
“Republican politicians across the country have continued to support the narrative of a stolen election,” said Lee Drutman, senior fellow in the Political Reform program of New America. “While the sentiment is not necessarily surprising, in practice, we’re seeing a doubling down of this narrative, which is driving a new wave of state laws that restrict voting access.”
Key findings – Theft Perception
- Republicans widely support Donald Trump and believe his claims about a stolen election. While Republicans support all elements of the “Stop the Steal” narrative in high numbers, the overall electorate largely rejects these claims and propositions.
- Among Republicans, 85% believe it was appropriate for Trump to file lawsuits challenging election results in several states, and the same proportion believe that vote-by-mail increases voter fraud.
- Republicans most committed to both Trump and the narrative of election fraud share a few other views in common: extreme antipathy toward Democrats and immigrants, belief that racism is not a problem, support for nationalism, belief in traditional family values and gender roles, and preference for a very limited role for government in the economy.
Throughout the summer, Voter Study Group will release reports examining other Trump-era topics with implications for the future of American democracy including views on race, populism, trust in institutions and issue prioritization and the change and stability of the American electorate. The reports show the consequences and dangers of our leaders being irresponsible and spreading mis- and dis-information.
Interactive Data on Voter Views: Nationscape Insights
From July 2019 to January 2021, the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape survey asked hundreds of thousands of Americans in every region of the U.S. about some of the nation’s biggest issues — including the economy, guns, healthcare, and climate change — and it tracked changes over time.
First launched in partnership with USA TODAY, Nationscape Insights makes week-by-week Nationscape survey data available with interactive visualizations you can sort by race, gender, income, geography, education level, and political leanings. With Nationscape insights, it’s possible to dive deep on the policy preferences of groups once too small to examine but who were pivotal to election outcomes — to help make sense of an era, and election, like no other in America’s history.
About Democracy Fund Voter Study Group
The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a research collaboration of more than two dozen analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum. Created in the wake of the 2016 election, the Voter Study Group’s goal is to better understand the American electorate by examining and delivering insights on the evolving views of American voters. Research and analysis from Voter Study Group members can be found at www.voterstudygroup.org and on Twitter @democracyfund.