Nearly two years after a fractious presidential election prompted false claims of widespread fraud and a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, many Americans remain gloomy about the state of U.S. democracy and the way elected people are chosen.
According to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only about half of Americans have high confidence that votes will be counted accurately in the upcoming midterm elections, though this is an improvement from just before the 2020 presidential election when only about four in ten Americans held this view. Only 9% of U.S. people believe democracy is functioning “very well” or “very well,” whilst 52% believe it is not functioning effectively.
In a turnaround from two years ago, Republicans are now more inclined than Democrats to claim that democracy is not functioning well. This sentiment is held by 68% of Republicans this year, up from 32% two years ago. The percentage of Democrats having a negative outlook on the functioning of democracy in the United States decreased from 63% to 40%.
Ronald McGraw Sr., 67, is a retired Indianapolis construction worker who recently registered to vote and plans to cast his first ballot this year.
“I thought I’d let everyone else vote and just go with the flow, but now everything is at stake,” he remarked, alluding to democracy, the economy, and “how the entire country operates.”
McGraw, who is Black and considers himself a moderate, stated that the political turbulence in the country and the presence of too many power-hungry politicians, especially those who work against the interests of minorities, are major concerns. He stated that he registered as a Republican but did not consider party programs or positions at the time.
He stated, “I am paying attention now.”
After each presidential election, members of the losing candidate’s party may feel dejected. The repercussions of the 2020 election have intensified as a result of former President Donald Trump and his allies’ false claims that Democrats stole the election.
There is no proof of widespread voting machine fraud or manipulation. Extensive reviews in crucial states upheld Joe Biden’s victory, but judges — including those selected by Trump — dismissed numerous challenges disputing the result. William Barr, Trump’s own attorney general, deemed the allegations to be false.
The widespread pessimism about democracy is the result of decades of escalating polarisation at all levels of government, from presidential and congressional elections to local contests such as school board elections.
43% of U.S. adults are pessimistic about the way leaders are selected, compared to 26% who are optimistic. Similar proportions of Republicans and Democrats are gloomy as well. A further 31% feel neither.
Adam Coykendall, a 31-year-old social studies teacher from Ashland, Wisconsin, believes that lawmakers are more motivated by party loyalty than by the national interest.
Coykendall, an independent who leans toward the Democratic Party, stated, “I feel like everything is becoming a little more divisive, a little more polarised, and more focused on party loyalty… rather than working for your constituency, having things that work for people rather than working for the party.”
58% of Republicans, according to the AP-NORC poll, continue to believe Biden‘s election was not legal. This is a modest decrease from 66% in July 2021.
Gary Phelps, a 70-year-old retired truck driver from Clearwater, Minnesota, acknowledges that Joe Biden is president, but he does not believe he was duly elected. Phelps stated that he was concerned about voter fraud, mail ballots being received and counted after Election Day, and anomalies with some voting machines, but he noted that his concern was based on his intuition and not on facts.
Phelps remains concerned about the voting procedure and the accuracy of the tally. The Republican-leaning independent stated, “I would hope so, but I don’t think so.”
47% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence that the votes will be counted accurately in the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats are the most confident, as 74% of them express high levels of confidence. On the Republican side, electoral optimism is extremely split, with 25% having great confidence, 30% having moderate confidence, and 45% having little to no confidence.
Two years of Trump and his friends spreading false information about the 2020 presidential election and spreading conspiracy theories about voting technology have contributed to this loss of confidence.
Mysterious changes to voting totals attributed to mailed ballots have been a constant source of misinformation. To clarify, election night returns are unofficial and frequently incomplete. It is typical for counting to continue for many days following Election Day as mail-in ballots received by the deadline are processed and added to the tally.
In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted an increase in mail-in ballots, as voters avoided crowded polling places. As local election officials went through the steps of verifying the ballots and ensuring that they were cast by registered voters, a huge number of these ballots delayed the results.
Julie Duggan, a 31-year-old Chicago police officer, is among the Republicans who question the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. She stated that observing his gaffes and blunders made it tough to imagine he earned sufficient support to win.
She cites inflation, illegal immigration, crime rates, and a lack of respect for law enforcement as reasons for her anxiety about the country’s future.
“If we don’t get the right people in, there will be no turning back,” she said, adding that she thinks the elections will be conducted fairly but has her concerns. My confidence has been severely affected.
The survey of 1,121 adults was performed from October 6-10 using a probability-based sample from NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel, which is intended to be representative of the U.S. population. The sample error margin for all respondents is +/- 3.8 percentage points.
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