NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll: Trust in Elections, Threat to Democracy, November 2021

Americans See a Serious Threat to Democracy; Trust Elections Largely on Partisan Basis

A majority of Americans (62%) say they will trust the results of the 2024 election even if the candidate they support loses, which includes 82% of Democrats but only one third of Republicans (33%). More than eight in ten (81%) Americans believe there is a “serious threat” to our democracy including 89% of Republicans, 80% of independents, and 79% of Democrats. But when asked which party presents the bigger threat, there’s a split: 42% say Democrats, 41% say Republicans, and 8% say both.

Sore Losers?
If your candidate for president does not win in 2024, do you trust that the results are accurate, or not?
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Registered Voters. Interviews conducted October 18th through October 22nd, 2021, n=1,032 MOE +/- 4.3 percentage points.
  • Overall, a majority of Americans (58%) have a “great deal” or “good amount” of trust that elections are fair but nearly four in ten (39%) do not believe this.

  • There’s a stark partisan divide on the question of trust in elections. 86% of Democrats and 60% of independents have a “great deal” or “good amount” of trust that elections are fair. Just 34% of Republicans agree.

  • When it comes to the integrity of local and state election officials in 2022, 70% of Americans are “very confident” or “confident” that they will be fair in their oversight. This includes 91% of Democrats, 67% of independents, and 60% of Republicans.

  • Asked if they would trust the outcome of the 2022 Congressional elections if their candidate did NOT win, 71% said they would. This includes 88% of Democrats, 77% of independents, and 53% of Republicans.

  • While a majority of Americans (62%) believe Donald Trump continues to falsely say the 2020 election was rigged because he “doesn’t like the outcome,” fully 75% of Republicans say Trump has a legitimate claim that there were “real cases of fraud that changed the results.”

In one area of agreement, 70% of Americans say when losing candidates refuse to concede they do more harm than good to democracy. This includes 86% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 56% of Republicans.

“Americans agree that our democracy is threatened but strongly split along party lines as to the causes,” says Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “When looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, it is remarkable that a bedrock principle of democracy – that losing candidates and their supporters accept the results – is not held by nearly two in three Republicans who say they will question the results if their candidate does not win.”

The partisan divide is in evidence on nearly every question related to election integrity.

Asked about states that have conducted additional recounts of the 2020 presidential results, a majority of Americans (53%) say they have been done “mostly because state officials just don’t like the outcome.” But while 84% of Democrats and 56% of independents hold this view, 76% of Republicans instead believe the recounts occurred “mostly because there are real cases of fraud in these states.”

Significant numbers of Republicans question election integrity at every level. Even with elections in their own communities, one in five Republicans (20%) say they have “no confidence at all” that local elections boards will conduct fair and accurate elections in 2022.

A majority of Republicans (60%) have less confidence in their state and local governments’ ability to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2022 than they had in 2020. Just 20% of Democrats and 32% of independents feel the same.

When asked what they think is the biggest threat to fair elections, Americans list voter suppression (29%), voter fraud (21%), and vote tampering by the opposing political party (18%) as the top 3. Democrats (55%) and independents (29%) are most worried about voter suppression, while Republicans (34%) are most concerned about voter fraud.

Biden & 2022

President Joe Biden’s approval rating is upside down. 44% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, and 49% disapprove. This compares to 45% approve/46% disapprove in our October poll.

In the Congressional generic contest, Democrats edge out Republicans with 44% of registered voters saying they’ll choose a Democrat in their district and 41% choosing a Republican. In our September poll, Democrats had an 8 percentage point lead 46% – 38%.

Looking ahead to 2024, 36% of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents say their party will have a better chance winning the White House with Biden at the top of the ticket. 44% want someone else, and 20% are unsure.

In contrast, asked the same question about Trump, 50% of Republicans and GOP leaning independents say a Trump ticket has the best chance of recapturing the presidency. 35% want someone else, and 14% say they are unsure.

Top of the 2024 Tickets

Do you think Democrats/Republicans have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2024 if Joe Biden/Donald Trump is the party’s nominee, or if someone else is the party’s nominee?

Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Poll. Interviews conducted October 18th through October 22nd, 2021. Democrats and Democratic leaning independents: n=469 MOE +/- 6.4 percentage points. Republicans and Republican leaning independents: n=413 MOE +/- 6.8 percentage points.