These polls are the latest to indicate that Republicans mistakenly think that the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate, when it clearly was.
What’s the point: Republicans have been pushing legislation at the state level to make voting at least somewhat more difficult than it was for the 2020 election. This has come in the wake of polls showing many Republicans doubt the election result. It is unclear what effect this legislation will ultimately have on future election outcomes.
What is perfectly clear, however, is that Republicans’ lack of faith in our current election infrastructure is a direct result of Trump’s historic efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 results.
After Trump left the White House in January, Monmouth University asked Americans whether they thought the 2020 election was conducted fairly and confidently. Overall, most (66%) were confident it was.
But the lion’s share of Republicans (65%) disagreed and said they were not confident at all the election was conducted fairly and accurately, which is consistent with the Ipsos polling spoken about above. This 65% is truly an anomaly in recent times.
Following every election from 2004 to 2016, the Pew Research Center queried voters on whether they were confident that the votes around the country were counted accurately.
The voters for the losing candidate in those elections had a lot more faith than Trump voters had in the results of the 2020 election. In every election from 2004 to 2016, between 8% and 14% of the voters of the losing candidate said they had no confidence at all that the election was legitimate. In 2016, just 11% of Hillary Clinton voters were not at all confident.
This means Republicans are somewhere between 40 points and 50 points more likely this time around to say they had no confidence in the results than the backers of any losing candidate in recent times.
The big difference this time around is that the losing candidate openly cast doubt on the results over and over again.
Republicans’ doubts come despite a clear margin for Biden in the swing states that made the difference. Trump would have had to have won at least three states he lost by more than 10,000 votes (one he lost by more than 20,000) to merely keep Biden from reaching 270 electoral votes.
Trump’s margins over Clinton in the pivotal swing states were similar to Biden’s over Trump’s in terms of percentage points, but Clinton voters didn’t have anywhere near the same doubt of the results.
Trump’s false allegations have certainly shifted the way Republicans think about who should be able to vote. Last month, Pew asked Americans whether citizens should prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time or whether everything should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote.
Today, a mere 28% of Republicans say everything should be done to make it easy for citizens to vote. That compares with 71% who say citizens should have to prove they really want to vote.
Back in 2018 (before Trump lost), the split was far closer at 48% of Republicans who believed voting should be made easy as easy as possible to 51% who thought voters should have to prove it.
(Democrats, by comparison, have barely moved on the question with 85% arguing voting should be made as easy as possible. That was 84% in 2018.)
The only thing that has really changed between 2018 and 2021 was the 2020 election.
It should be noted that Republicans are in the minority on this issue. Most Americans (59%) say everything should be done to make things as easy as possible for citizens to vote.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s not clear at all that efforts to appease those who have doubt in the system will actually work.
We can see this by looking at studies on voter photo identification laws, which a lot of Republicans have backed to ensure those who are voting are who they say they are.
Most Americans (72%) are in favor of them, according to a new AP/NORC poll. That makes it one of the few election reforms pushed by Republicans that most Americans agree with.
The problem is that studies show that having voter identification laws do not actually increase confidence in the legitimacy of the election process. There’s a lot of reason to doubt that the Republican push to shift current election laws will actually give Republicans more faith in the system.
People who believe in conspiracy theories find ways to disbelieve the truth.
What would actually help people have more faith in our electoral process is that if Trump and other Republicans stopped lying to their voters and admitted the truth: Biden won the election legitimately.