By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY and LINLEY SANDERS
Few Republicans have high confidence that votes will be tallied accurately in next year’s presidential contest, suggesting years of sustained attacks against elections by former President Donald Trump and his allies have taken a toll, according to a new poll.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that only 22% of Republicans have high confidence that votes in the upcoming presidential election will be counted accurately compared to 71% of Democrats, underscoring a partisan divide fueled by a relentless campaign of lies related to the 2020 presidential election. Even as he runs for the White House a third time, Trump continues to promote the false claim that the election was stolen.
Overall, the survey finds that fewer than half of Americans – 44% — have “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence that the votes in the next presidential election will be counted accurately.
While Democrats’ confidence in elections has risen in recent years, the opposite is true for Republicans. Ahead of the 2016 election, 32% of Republicans were highly confident votes would be counted accurately — a figure that jumped to 54% two years later after Trump won the presidency.
That confidence level dropped to 28% a month before the 2020 election, as Trump signaled to voters that the voting would be rigged, and now sits at 22% less than 16 months before the next presidential election.
“I just didn’t like the way the last election went,” said Lynn Jackson, a registered nurse from El Sobrante, California, who is a registered Republican. “I have questions about it. I can’t actually say it was stolen — only God knows that.”
Trump’s claims were rejected by dozens of judges, including several he appointed. His own attorney general and an exhaustive review by The Associated Press found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the results. Multiple reviews, audits and recounts in the battleground states where Trump disputed his loss confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, including several overseen by Republican lawmakers.
Even so, Trump’s attempts to explain his loss led to a wave of new laws in GOP-dominated states that added new voting restrictions, primarily by restricting mail voting and limiting or banning ballot drop boxes. Across the country, conspiracy theories related to voting machines have prompted many Republican-controlled local governments to explore banning machines from tallying votes in favor of hand counts.
The AP-NORC poll suggests that the persistent messaging has sunk in among a wide swath of the American public.
The survey found that independents — a group that has consistently had low confidence in elections — were also largely skeptical about the integrity of the 2024 elections. Just 24% have the highest levels of confidence that the votes will be counted accurately.
Chris Ruff, a 46-year-old unaffiliated voter from Sanford, North Carolina, said he lost faith in elections years ago, believing they are rigged to favor certain candidates. He also sees no difference between the two major parties.
“I don’t vote at all,” he said. “I think it only adds credibility to the system if you participate.”
The conspiracy theories about voting machines, promoted through forums held around the country, also have taken a toll on confidence among Republicans even though there is no evidence to support them.
About four in 10 U.S. adults are highly confident that scanning paper ballots into a machine provides accurate counts. Democrats are about twice as confident in the process as Republicans —63% compared to 29%. That marks a notable shift from a 2018 AP-NORC poll that found just 40% of Democrats were confident compared to 53% of Republicans.
Gillian Nevers, a 79-year-old retiree from Madison, Wisconsin, has worked as a poll worker and said she has confidence — based on her experiences — in the people who oversee elections.
“I have never seen any shenanigans,” said Nevers, who votes Democratic. “The claims are unfounded and ridiculous. Because they are being so widely projected, I think they have a lot of people worried who I don’t think should be.”
The conspiracy theories have led to death threats against election officials and an exodus of experienced workers. The attacks against voting machines have been especially dispiriting for election officials because of the testing and audits they perform before and after elections to ensure votes are recorded accurately. All states except Alabama and Wisconsin reported using a method referred to as logic and accuracy testing to confirm that voting machines were tabulating votes correctly before the 2022 midterm elections, according to a report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
In most jurisdictions, any challenged result also can be checked against the paper ballots.
James Grove, a 74-year-old retiree from Sharon, Pennsylvania, is among the minority of Republicans who are confident votes will be counted accurately next year and said he does not believe the 2020 election was stolen.
“I think most of the elections are run pretty honestly,” said Grove, who backed Trump in 2016 and 2020. “There are Republican election watchers and Democratic ones. And do I think the 2020 election was crooked? No, I really don’t.”
Among other poll findings:
— Most Republicans — 62% — are opposed to allowing people to vote using mailed ballots without an excuse, compared to just 13% of Democrats. Roughly seven in 10 Democrats support no-excuse mail voting.
— Requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot receives broad bipartisan support. Seven in 10 U.S. adults would favor a measure requiring voters to provide photo identification, including 87% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats.
— A slim majority of Americans – 55% – support automatically registering adult citizens to vote when they get a driver’s license or other state identification.
— Four in 10 U.S. adults say eligible voters being denied the right to vote is a major problem in U.S. elections, but about as many Americans say the same about people voting who are not eligible. The perceived significance of each issue varies by political party: 56% of Republicans call illegal voting a major problem in U.S. elections, compared to 20% of Democrats. At the same time, 53% of Democrats say eligible voters being unable to vote is a major problem, compared to 26% of Republicans.