voice for democracy

Republicans' trust in democracy has plunged since 2016 – The Economist

ONCE LOST, faith is hard to restore. A select committee of America’s House of Representatives is investigating the Capitol riot on January 6th, in which a mob stormed the building in an attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. The committee has subpoenaed various figures from Donald Trump’s administration who may have been involved in the riot or otherwise aided his attempts to undermine the result, but the malaise in American democracy runs beyond the world of officialdom. Among Republican voters, there is a great lack of trust of America’s election officials and democratic institutions.
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A working paper published in July by Jesse Clark and Charles Stewart, two political scientists, finds that in 2020 Republican voters had much less faith than in past elections that their votes were counted fairly in their states. According to their analysis of public polling data, around 80% of all voters were confident that votes in their state had been counted correctly. But there was a deep partisan cleavage. In 2016 91% of Republicans said they had faith in their state’s tally. But in 2020 only 62% were similarly confident. Democrats were overall more trusting. In 2016 88% were confident that their vote had been tallied properly, and 95% said the same in 2020.
The researchers found that Republicans’ misgivings about the counting of their own votes were highest in states where the presidential race was closest. They estimate that about one-third of Republicans living in states decided by less than one percentage point believed the election was tallied correctly, compared with over 60% in the states with the largest margins for Mr Trump. This pattern was not present in past elections.
Mistrust is not confined to the Republican Party. In 2016 Messrs Clark and Stewart found that Democrats in states where Hillary Clinton barely lost were also less likely to believe their votes were counted accurately, though by not as large a margin as sceptical Republicans in 2020. Though Democrats did not invade the Capitol when Mrs Clinton lost, the authors note, “the fact that Trump supporters in 2020 expressed a more virulent brand of election rejection than Democrats in 2016 should not blind us to the possibility that we have entered an era in which partisans of both sides are both unwilling to accept losses and willing to be overconfident when they win.” Although elections must have winners and losers, restoring trust in the outcomes should be a bipartisan effort.
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