Although it has been more than two years since former President Trump lost the 2020 election and incited a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol, his lies about the integrity and security of the 2020 election remain a key issue. In 2022, more than 300 candidates for elected office openly questioned or rejected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. And while most of them were defeated at the state level in elections for governorships and U.S. Senate seats, many won their bids for seats in the U.S. House and state legislatures as well as local positions. In 2024, election denialism will continue to be a defining issue, as election deniers have already signaled their intention to run for positions at all levels of government, including those that directly oversee election administration.
Given that election deniers remain in key positions of government and will continue to run for new seats, the Public Wise Research and Education Fund designed and fielded an original survey with our partners at Change Research geared toward understanding what the public knows about election denialism, how they view those that challenge or question the results of the 2020 election, and what they think about democracy more broadly.
Included in this post are the crosstabs (linked above) as well as some key toplines. Keep an eye on this space as we continue to analyze these original data and report our findings.
Field Dates: April 13-19, 2023
Sample: Nationally representative sample of 3,637 adults
Margin of Error: ± 2.0
Americans are roughly split on whether they are more concerned about eligible voters not having a fair chance to vote OR some people casting votes illegally, with a slight majority (54%) saying they are more concerned about eligible voters not having a fair chance. This is highly polarized by party, with virtually all Democrats (95%) saying they are more concerned about eligible voters not having a fair chance and nearly all Republicans (89%) saying they are more concerned about people voting illegally.
A slight majority (57%) of respondents say it is “always true” that someone labeled as an election denier does not believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.
51% of respondents are much less likely to vote for a candidate characterized as an election denier (88% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans).
The traits Americans consider most essential for democracy are freedom to voice opinion (91%), equal right to vote (90%), gender equality before the law (87%), and rule of law (85%).
70% of Republicans considered a strong military to be essential for democracy while only 37% of Democrats did.
Only 64% of respondents (77% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans) felt that a party giving up power when they lose an election is essential to democracy.
Most respondents have heard election denial rhetoric, including that voting by mail makes it easier for people to commit voter fraud (95%), that there are places where it’s easy for ineligible people to vote (83%), that electronic voting machines have been rigged (94%), that voter fraud prevented President Trump from winning in 2020 (96%), and that poll workers in certain states help rig elections (89%).
Belief in election denial rhetoric varies by claim and political party. Democrats and left-leaning Independents are less likely to say they believe election denier rhetoric, Republicans and right-leaning Independents are more likely to say they believe election denier rhetoric, and moderates are roughly split.
Inflation and the cost of living (46%) was the most commonly listed issue of importance to Americans, followed by gun policy (37%) and democracy (32%). Abortion and reproductive healthcare was a more important issue to younger Americans than older Americans.
A majority say that laws that make it harder for Americans to vote (65%), politicians who refuse to accept the results of elections they disagree with (64%), the mainstream media (68%), the influence of money in politics (93%), and threats to poll workers (66%) are either a major or somewhat of a threat to democracy.
Among all respondents, voting law reforms that received the most support included automatic voter registration for all American citizens at age 18 (63%), replacing the electoral college with a system that would require a majority of the popular vote to be President (54%), and banning state laws that prevent American citizens with previous felony convictions from voting (49%).
Among Republicans, support is highest for English language tests to cast a ballot (60%), requiring that voters demonstrate a certain level of civic knowledge and awareness of current events to be able to vote (54%), and raising the voting age (42%).
Among Democrats, support is highest for automatic voter registration for American citizens at age 18 (88%), replacing the electoral college with the popular vote (86%), and banning state laws that prevent American citizens with previous felony convictions from voting (63%).