GW Politics Poll Finds Varying Confidence in State and Local Elections

Voter trust in election officials differs according to geography and party affiliation.

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July 28, 2021

Democratic voters continue to have more faith in state and local elections than Republicans do, according to new data from the latest George Washington University Politics Poll. But confidence in state and local election officials appears to vary depending on voters’ location and their party affiliation.

Results from the new survey show that Republican voters in states that former President Donald Trump won in the 2020 presidential election report far higher levels of confidence in their state and local officials than GOP voters in states that went for President Joe Biden.

Among Democrats there is a similar though less pronounced pattern with trust higher in Biden-states than in Trump-states. 

“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,” said Danny Hayes, professor of political science and co-director of the GW Politics Poll. “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 poll, conducted in June, showed that 85% of surveyed Democrats expressed trust in their local election officials and 76% trusted their state officials, compared to 63% and 44% of Republicans, respectively. GOP voters’ faith in their state election officials jumped to 70% if they lived in a state that Mr. Trump won in 2020. However, only 24% of Republicans living in states that Mr. Biden won have confidence in their state elections.

Other key results from the poll include:

● Democratic voters’ confidence in the integrity of the upcoming 2022 elections is similar to their confidence going into the 2020 election. Before the November 2020 election, 76% of surveyed Democrats expressed confidence in the integrity of the upcoming results. This most recent poll found that 75% of Democratic voters expressed confidence in the 2022 elections. Republicans are less confident about the 2022 elections (28%) than they were before the 2020 vote (46%). 

● The survey showed that 82% of Republicans agreed with the statement, “It is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout.” Only 15% of Democratic voters agreed.

● Support for fundamental principles such as free and fair elections, free speech and peaceful protest are nearly unanimous among both Democrats and Republicans. But their views on other democratic values differ dramatically. Over half of Republicans (55%) supported the possible use of force to preserve the “traditional American way of life,” compared to 15% of Democrats. When asked if a time will come when “patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands,” 47% of Republicans agreed, as opposed to just 9% of Democrats.

● Among all surveyed voters, 51% approved of Mr. Biden’s performance as chief executive;  47% did not approve of the way he was handling the job as president. A mere 25% of respondents approved of the performance of Congress, with 69% disapproving.

The GW Politics Poll is a joint venture of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science and the Graduate School of Political Management. The most recent survey of 1,753 registered voters, conducted June 4-23, was the final wave of a 4-wave panel that began in October with 2,500 voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3%. Conducted by YouGov, the survey is matched to produce a nationally representative sample.

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