USA. Americans’ Confidence in Voting
BSSB.BE gallup.com/ 02.11.2016
As claims that next Tuesday’s presidential election is “rigged” continue to swirl, two in three Americans (66%) say they are “very” or “somewhat confident” that votes will be cast and counted accurately across the country. This is similar to the 62% Gallup recorded in August, after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump first suggested that the only way he could lose “is if cheating goes on.”
Americans’ current level of confidence in the accuracy of the vote is also similar to the 59% recorded in 2008 but remains lower than what they expressed from 2004 to 2007, when more than seven in 10 were “very” or “somewhat confident.”
Trump has repeatedly asserted in recent months that weak voter identification laws could imperil the integrity of the election’s results and has encouraged his supporters to monitor polling stations for fraudulent activity. The Democratic National Committee has responded with a lawsuit against the Republican National Committee, saying the GOP is coordinating to intimidate voters at the polls.
Americans Now More Likely to Say They Are “Very Confident” in Vote Count
Democrats’ overall confidence in votes being accurately counted this year is stable; however, the percentage who say they are very confident increased to 54% from 37%. Republicans’ overall confidence was already low in August and remains that way today. As a result of Democrats’ rising confidence, the percentage of all Americans feeling very confident that votes will be accurately counted in this year’s election rose from 24% to 35%.
Confidence in the Accuracy of U.S. Vote Counting, by Party — August vs. October 2016
How confident are you that, across the country, the votes will be accurately cast and counted in this year’s election — very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident or not at all confident?
Very confident Somewhat confident Very/Somewhat confident
% % %
Oct 25-26, 2016 35 31 66
Aug 15-16, 2016 24 38 62
Oct 25-26, 2016 54 29 83
Aug 15-16, 2016 37 39 76
Oct 25-26, 2016 19 37 56
Aug 15-16, 2016 15 37 52
This Summer, General Perceptions of “Honesty” of Elections at New Low
Americans’ answers to a broader Gallup World Poll question about the honesty of elections in general paint a less positive picture. Before the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this summer — and well before Trump dialed up talk about “rigged” elections — a record-low 30% of Americans expressed confidence in the “honesty of elections.” This is down 10 percentage points from 2015 and about half as high as the 59% recorded the year that President Barack Obama took office in 2009, which is also the record high for the trend.
Globally, the U.S. ranks 90th out of 112 countries that Gallup has asked this question in so far this year. While the percentage in the U.S. is undoubtedly low, the ranking may be slightly misleading because a number of countries with higher scores than the U.S. are not considered electoral democracies. But even among those that are, including the wealthy OECD member states, only Mexico (19%) ranks lower than the U.S.
The decline between 2015 and 2016 may reflect Americans’ overall dissatisfaction with the primaries and the nominees who emerged from them rather than the voting process itself. According to a recent Pew study, only 35% of voters said that they thought the primaries were a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees for president. And, according to recent Gallup polls, Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of the least liked candidates in the history of Gallup’s tracking, and both get low ratings as being honest and trustworthy.
Trump’s warnings about voter fraud in recent months haven’t weakened Americans’ faith in the accuracy of the U.S. vote count. But the fact remains that one in three national adults have low confidence that votes across the country will be properly cast and counted. Perhaps even more negatively, 30% said that they have confidence in the honesty of elections earlier this year. The latter finding suggests that the public thinks about more than the voting process itself when thinking about elections, perhaps considering things such as the honesty of the candidates themselves or the sources of money behind the campaigns.
Americans have shown strong support for various changes in how and when people can vote, such as facilitating early voting and strengthening voter identification laws, but these aren’t uniformly implemented across states. Relatedly, sizable minorities of Americans have expressed concerns about voter fraud and eligible voters being turned away. Regardless of their levels of concern, voter fraud has been found to be fairly rare in U.S. elections.
However, perceived accuracy may be just as important as actual accuracy in vote counting. The legitimacy of a candidate’s electoral victory, whether accurate or not, can be undermined by popular beliefs about fraud. And with a major party nominee making voter fraud a central focus of his speeches in the final days of the election season, the issue could carry into the elected president’s first term.
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