January 18, 2024 – After a dominant showing in the Iowa caucus on Monday night, the road to the Republican nomination appears to go through Mar-a-Lago. But if you ask the average American, it’s the roads of the nation’s democracy that appear to need some repairs.
New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Americans voicing considerable distress at both the micro and the macro level when it comes to elections, their reliability, and their consequences.
One-quarter say they have no confidence at all in the safeguards designed to ensure free and fair elections this November. A further one-in-three say they have little confidence, while just one-in-five say they’re totally comfortable the checks and balances will hold up.
Among those who voted for Joe Biden in the last contest, held nearly four years ago, one-in-three say they’re not confident. Those who supported Trump in 2020, and who are perhaps more likely to believe Trump’s repeated claims that the election was “rigged”, are far more likely to voice doubt; four-in-five do so.
These doubts fall not only on the election process itself, but on the potential results. Just one-in-three (32%) Americans say they will fully accept the results of the 2024 presidential election regardless of whether Biden or Trump win. The rest express some reservations, including 70 per cent of past Trump voters who say they will only accept a Trump victory and approaching half (46%) of 2020 Biden voters who say only a Biden win will be viewed as legitimate in their eyes.
Longer term, there are worries about the expression of the people’s will. Two-thirds of Americans (64%) say broadly speaking the idea that power is vested in the people is “weakening”, while seven-in-ten (69%) say the fundamental concept that “the rule of law applies to everyone” has also diminished. Overall, just one-in-five (20%) say they feel the federal government cares about issues important to them.
The prospect of another Trump presidential term is one that causes serious concerns for some and jubilation for others. Overall, half (47%) say the country cannot handle another four years of Trump, this includes one-in-eight current Republicans (12%). More than two-in-five (43%) disagree with this notion.
More Key Findings:
- Half of Americans are now worried that their country may be on the path to authoritarianism. This is an idea held close to equally by both Republicans (48%) and Democrats (50%).
- Two-in-five (38%) say America will be “much worse” if Biden secures another term. Slightly more (42%) say the same of a Trump victory come this fall.
- Past voters for both candidates are worried about the country’s democracy should the opposite party win. Three-quarters (75%) of those who voted Biden in 2020 believe America’s democracy will be “a lot” weaker after a Trump victory; seven-in-ten (69%) past Trump voters believe a Biden victory would severely weaken democracy in that country.
Part One: Widespread doubts about election security
The doubt cast on the election security of the 2020 election has yet to clear. It has largely come from one direction – former President Donald Trump, who continues to publicly sow the seeds of uncertainty over the result.
That doubt appears to have permeated widely in the American public. Only one-in-five (18%) say they are “absolutely confident” the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent voter fraud in the 2024 election. Four-in-five have some concerns, ranging from the more confident than not (24%) to the one-quarter who are “not confident at all”. Notably, Americans are slightly more confident than their Canadian neighbours on the matter of election security, of whom only one-in-eight say they have absolute confidence in the American electoral system.
Women are less confident in the security of the 2024 election than men:
After more than three years of Trump casting doubt on the results of the 2020 election, past Republican voters show little confidence that the 2024 election is protected against widespread fraud. Two-in-five (41%) who voted Trump in 2020 have no confidence at all. Past Biden voters are more assured the systems are in place for a fair election this fall, but two-thirds have some concerns the election is at risk:
A majority of those concerned with the security of the 2024 election believe most or all states are at risk for fraud. In fact, half (48%) of those concerned with cheating in the next election and living in eight states projected to be close contests in 2024 – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – say no states are secure against fraud:
Republicans, Democrats point fingers at opposite-governed states over security concerns
Partisanship is evident when those concerned with potential cheating in the 2024 election are asked which states are more at risk. A majority (60%) of Biden voters say it is Republican-controlled states that are more vulnerable to election fraud while a majority of Trump voters disagree and say it is instead the Democrat-controlled ones where cheating is more likely to happen:
Acceptance or doubt? Voting preferences drive the divide
There appears to be significant doubt over the legitimacy of any result from the 2024 election from supporters of both parties. Overall, one-third (32%) of Americans say they will accept the result of the presidential election regardless of whether Trump or Biden win. A majority say they will have some doubts if either Trump (31%) or Biden (25%) emerges victorious, while a handful (11%) say they won’t fully accept if either candidate wins in November.
Seven-in-ten (70%) past Trump voters say they will only fully accept a Trump victory with no reservations. Conversely, half (46%) of those who voted Biden in 2020 say only a victory by the Democratic candidate will leave them without doubts:
Part Two: Concerns about the outcome
Regardless of whether Biden or Trump win the 2024 election, many believe the result will be negative for America. Two-in-five (42%) say the U.S. will be “much worse” for a Trump win. As many (38%) say the same if Biden prevails. There is more optimism from Americans that a second Trump term will significantly improve their country, while a Biden victory is believed to make America better (25%) or have no effect (25%) by equal numbers:
Women are more likely than men to view a Trump victory in 2024 as detrimental to the United States. Older Americans are more likely to see it as potentially positive. Across all demographics, there are few who believe four more years of Trump will leave the country in the same place as it is now (see detailed tables).
Older Americans are both more likely to be negative and more likely to positive on the potential of another four-year Biden term. One-third of 18- to 34-year-olds believe four more years of Biden won’t impact the country at all (see detailed tables).
Partisans say opponent win would weaken democracy
The sense among a significant proportion of Americans is that either outcome will be bad for democracy for their country. Half (49%) say Trump securing the Oval Office in the fall election will weaken democracy while an equal number say the same of Biden winning a second term:
As one might expect, this question generates a wide partisan divide. Seven-in-ten (69%) past Republican voters say Biden winning in November will make democracy “a lot weaker”. Three-quarters of those who voted Biden in 2020 say the same of a Trump victory:
Half of both Biden and Trump supporters say country is on the road to authoritarianism
Past Biden and Trump supporters do have some common ground. Half of each group believe the country is on the road to authoritarianism. Though they perhaps differ on the authoritarian in question:
Part Three: The state of U.S. democracy
Weakening of democratic values perceived
As Americans fret over the lasting impact of the coming election on democracy, there are many already questioning the robustness of the system as it stands. Americans are more likely than not to believe human rights are weakening in their country, elections are becoming less free and fair, power is increasingly not in the hands of the common people and the rule of law is not being applied as equitably as it once was. Only on a single measure – the ability for everyone to participate in politics and civic life – is there more Americans saying it is strengthening than weakening:
Across the political divide, there is a shared sense that these important pillars of democracy are weakening, with some differences. Past Trump voters are more likely than those who voted Biden in 2020 to believe elections are becoming less free and fair, while past Biden voters express more criticism of the state of human rights in the U.S.:
Three-in-five say ‘American Age’ is over or ending
As the country nears another inflection point in November, there are many citizens who feel its reign as a global hegemonic force is nearing a close. A majority (60%) of Americans believe the “American Age” will be over soon or is finished already. Three-in-ten (31%) say there is still more time left in its run as the chief global superpower, while one-in-ten (10%) believe there is no end in sight.
Past Trump voters (65%) are more likely than 2020 Biden voters (56%) to say America’s dominance on economic, political and cultural matters is over or ending soon:
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Jan. 9-12, 2024 among a representative randomized sample of 1,178 American adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum USA. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.
For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.
To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.
To read the questionnaire, click here.
Image – Samuel Branch via Unsplash
From the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation committed to independent research.For detailed breakdown of the results, visit angusreid.org