Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

What are we to make of a poll showing 72% of Republicans ‘do not trust’ the election outcome?

I can’t cross-examine those numbers to better understand what “do not trust” might mean to them. But it’s not good. It’s very bad. It’s a breeding ground for hyper-partisan divisions ahead.

Former Vice President Joe Biden raises a fist as he delivers remarks on Election Night in Wilmington, Delaware.
Former Vice President Joe Biden raises a fist as he delivers remarks on Election Night in Wilmington, Delaware.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

We need to try to think clearly about what the poll results discussed below mean. They were taken by the Marist poll organization and sponsored by National Public Radio and the PBS NewsHour.

Overall, 61 percent of Americans believe that the results of the 2020 election, showing a Joe Biden victory over Donald Trump, were accurate. Five percent say they are unsure. And 34 percent do not believe the results.

As you would imagine, the disbelievers are overwhelmingly Republicans. Here’s that breakdown, by percent who say they do not “trust” the results.

  • Democrats: 95 trust the results, 3 percent do not, 2 percent were unsure.
  • Independents: 67 trust/5 percent do not/ and 28 percent unsure.
  • Republicans: 24 trust/72 do not trust/4 percent unsure.

I don’t know how literally nor how seriously to take those poll results. I can’t, at the moment, find that similar questions were polled after previous elections. I’ve been on the planet since the Truman administration, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen anything like this before in a U.S. presidential election.

Article continues after advertisement

It’s worth mentioning that there have been a lot of much closer elections in the past, including, especially, the 2000 Bush vs. Gore election, which was decided by a very small number of votes in one state featuring many vagaries, including the infamous “hanging chads.” 

I wouldn’t call Biden’s margins exactly a landslide, but they are very solid margins in both the popular and electoral vote. To “not trust” that Biden won, you would have to believe that several states, including states controlled by Republicans, committed fraud large enough to cheat on tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of ballots. 

It makes no sense. It’s creepy. I refer you back to a recent post of mine, linking to a piece by “On Tyranny” author Timothy Snyder, suggesting one of the breeding grounds for the rise of Hitler in post-World War I Germany was the widespread belief in Germany that their country had not really lost World War I but had been “stabbed in the back” by traitors.

To decide how seriously to worry about the huge 72 percent “do not trust” portion of Republicans, and to not freak out unnecessarily, we perhaps need to consider the possibility that many of them really mean something closer to “do not like.” But that would be a leap of faith, or perhaps of hope, and it would do those respondents the unkindness of assuming that they can’t distinguish between what happened and what they wished would happen, but didn’t.

Their leader, Donald John Trump, is telling his supporters that the election was stolen by fraud. Although he has been unable to produce any evidence of that fraud that would convince anyone engaged in a modicum of critical thinking, and has not even been able to get a Supreme Court composed of two-thirds Republican appointees and three appointed by Trump himself to say that the election was stolen from him, still, 72 percent of Republicans “do not trust,” which pretty much means “do not accept” the results.

I can’t cross-examine those numbers to better understand what “do not trust” might mean to them. But it’s not good. It’s very bad. It’s a breeding ground for hyper-partisan divisions ahead. If we take it literally, and especially if we take it seriously, it could threaten the future of democracy in America.

A full write-up of the poll by NPR is here.

Article continues after advertisement

And  a detailed breakdown of the results by age, gender, region, etc, is here.