GW Politics Poll finds partisan divisions intensifying mistrust in elections

Media Credit: File Photo by Donna Armstrong | Senior Staff Photographer

The poll found that 76 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in their state election administrators.

A new GW Politics Poll found that Republican voters’ confidence and trust in state and local election officials dipped in states that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 presidential election.

The poll, which was conducted by online polling company YouGov and surveyed 1,753 registered U.S. voters last month, found that 76 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in their state election administrators. State and local election officials faced heightened opposition in the wake of the 2020 presidential election when President Donald Trump and his supporters rebuked Biden’s win in a push to overturn the results, eventually inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

About 20 percent of Republicans were confident in the 2020 presidential election results compared to 90 percent among Democrats, according to the poll. Danny Hayes, a professor of political science and the co-director of the GW Politics Poll, said the division between trust in local and state election officials among voters threatens the future of American democracy.

“Most of the state and local officials who run our elections are long-time public servants whose goal is simply to help our democracy operate smoothly,” Hayes said in a press release. “But if we’ve gotten to a place where voters trust the electoral system only when their side wins, then that undermines the idea of non-partisan election administration, which is essential for democracy.”

The GW Politics Poll – a joint project between the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Graduate School of Political Management and the political science department – was part of a 4-wave study launched last October, culminating with the survey conducted from June 4 to June 23.

70 percent of Republicans trust their state election officials in states that former President Donald Trump won in the election, while only 24 percent trust officials in states that Biden won, according to the poll. When asked about local officials, the poll showed that about 78 percent of Republicans in Trump states expressed trust compared to 50 percent Republicans in Biden states.

Researchers found a similar but less extreme pattern among Democrats, with trust in local and state officials higher in Biden states than in Trump state. Democrats’ trust in state officials was 19 percent higher in Biden states and trust in local officials was a similar eight percent higher.

President Joe Biden received a 51 percent approval rating and 47 percent disapproval rating for his performance as president from all surveyed voters, according to the poll. About 69 percent of the respondents disapproved of Congress’s performance with only 25 percent approving.

The poll also found that several national issues – like those concerning the pandemic, racial justice, gun laws and climate change – largely fell along partisan lines with more Democrats viewing them as “very or somewhat important.” Republican and Democrat voters both viewed strengthening the nation’s economy as very or somewhat important with 98 percent and 89 percent recognizing it as a priority, respectively.

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