Most Americans feel democracy is under attack in this country (56%), according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, as 51% say it is likely that elected officials in the US will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win.
Nearly all Americans feel that democracy in the US is at least being tested: 93% total say that democracy is either under attack (56%) or being tested but not under attack (37%). A scant 6% say that American democracy is in no danger.
Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say that democracy is under attack, and that view is most prevalent among those who support former President Donald Trump. All told, 75% of Republicans say democracy is under attack, compared with 46% of Democrats. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, those who say Trump ought to be the leader of the party are much likelier to see democracy as under threat: 79% in that group vs. 51% among those who say Trump should not be the party’s leader.
And Republicans who support Trump continue to drive belief in the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Although there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, 36% of Americans say that President Joe Biden did not legitimately get enough votes to win the presidency. That 36% includes 23% who falsely say there is solid evidence that Biden did not win, and 13% who say that is their suspicion only.
Among Republicans, 78% say that Biden did not win and 54% believe there is solid evidence of that, despite the fact that no such evidence exists. That view is also deeply connected to support for Trump. Among Republicans who say Trump should be the leader of the party, 88% believe Biden lost – including 64% who say there is solid evidence that he did not win – while among those Republicans who do not want Trump to lead the Party, 57% say Biden won legitimately.
Looking to future elections, 51% of all Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that an election in the next few years will be overturned by elected officials because their party lost, while 49% say that is unlikely.
Views on this prospect are more closely tied to perceptions of the threat facing American democracy than to partisanship. Those who say that democracy in America is under attack are most apt to believe it’s likely that an election will be overturned for partisan reasons (58%), while most who do not see democracy as under attack say that’s unlikely (58%). Among Republicans, 57% say an overturned election is very or somewhat likely, while 48% of independents and 49% of Democrats feel the same way.
Democrats and independents, though, are driving a drop in confidence that American elections reflect the will of the people. A narrow majority overall, 52%, now say they lack that confidence, up from 40% who felt that way in January. Among Democrats, confidence has dipped from 90% in January to 69% now, and among independents, it’s fallen from 54% to 46% over that time, while Republican confidence has held about even and now stands at 24%.
That shift comes after a series of high-profile changes to voting rules and regulations at the state level. Republican officials in some states have tightened the rules around voting, while some Democratic-controlled states have taken steps to make looser rules implemented to address the coronavirus pandemic permanent. Less than half see either side’s moves as pure, according to the poll.
Majorities see the parties in control as making these changes to benefit themselves. About 6 in 10 (58%) say that changes to voting laws in states controlled by Republicans were made in order to help the party in power rather than to make elections more fair, while 53% say the same about such changes in Democratic-controlled states. Combining the two results, about a quarter overall say that both parties are acting in their own best interest (25%), and just 12% say that both sides are acting to make elections more fair. About a third each say one party is aiming to make elections more fair while the other is moving to keep control (33% say Democrats are making elections more fair and Republicans are acting to help their party, 29% say that Republicans are making elections more fair while Democrats are trying to hang on to control).
Democrats and Republicans in the poll are on opposite sides of whether the bigger problem with voting rules in US elections is that they make it too hard to vote or that they aren’t strict enough to prevent illegal votes. Among Republicans, 83% say the problem is that the rules aren’t strict enough while 66% of Democrats say that it is too hard to vote.
The new CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS August 3 through September 7 among a random national sample of 2,119 adults initially reached by mail. Interviews were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.