There is a tendency to think of democracy as one of many current political issues, but actually democracy is the foundation upon which every other political issue rests. It’s easy to take its importance for granted when democracy is functioning even moderately well. But when the foundation starts to crack, it can be difficult for citizens to see how easily it can crumble.
Recent years have brought new strains on the foundation of our democracy. While many would argue that the foundation was compromised from the beginning, over the last decade, splinters have grown into fissures and questions about its ability to withstand growing threats have emerged. We have witnessed a steep rise in harsh voter suppression legislation in states across the country. Several states have engaged in extreme partisan gerrymandering to limit the power of some voters while inflating others. Rampant misinformation has deterred some people from participating. We’ve even seen violence meant to intimidate one side or alter the outcome of an election. In this context, the growing threat of election denialism looks like a sledgehammer.
Without a functioning democracy, Americans will no longer be able to have their say in decisions that affect their daily lives – including their healthcare, their children’s education, the economy in which they work and shop, the criminal justice system that polices their communities, or the US position in world affairs.
At Public Wise, we believe in democracy
and that it should be equitable and accessible to all Americans
The following series explores how the public views election denial and democracy.
We find that democracy is one of the three most important issues to registered voters, but it may not be clear to voters how much the other issues they care about rely on a functioning democracy.
Our research demonstrates that election denialism and other forms of voter suppression are merely two sides of the same coin for a subset of the American electorate. Those who believe in election denialism and support election denier candidates are also more likely to support other forms of voter suppression. Indeed, those inclined to vote for election deniers are also more likely to support requiring a civic knowledge test as a barrier to voting. In contrast, voters who care about democracy are more likely to say they aren’t inclined to vote for an election denier than those who don’t list democracy as an issue of top importance to them.
Despite this, we find hope in the idea that voters are concerned about democracy, believe in equity, and are generally against election deniers and skeptical of common election denial claims. The majority of registered voters say they are less likely to support someone who has been labeled an election denier. And for the most part, voters favor four essential elements of democracy: freedom to voice an opinion, equal right to vote, gender equity under the law, and the rule of law.
Our findings point to the importance of calling out election denial, articulating the threat it poses to democracy, and emphasizing how a functioning democracy is essential to all other aspects of the American way of life.
We hope our work proves helpful to those who are engaged in the fight for a more equitable democracy.