Americans have observed the growth of voter distrust in the outcome of the November presidential election, including the prospect of foreign meddling, the possibility of campaign cheating, and a belief in the existence of “secret voters” who will materialize on Election Day, according to a recent poll published by the University’s Polling Institute on Sep. 10.
The poll’s findings suggest a small but sizable number of voters could be suspicious of the election result, regardless of winner. About 6 in 10 voters are confident the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately, yet another 24 percent are not too confident and 13 percent consider themselves not confident at all in the integrity of the election.
“Of course, most voters believed that Clinton was going to win four years ago and they accepted the different outcome,” The University Polling Institute’s Director Patrick Murray said. “But the reasons why voters think Trump will win again suggest that some may not accept this year’s result if he loses,”
U.S. President Donald Trump recently declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the Nov. 3 election and said he expected the election battle to end up before the Supreme Court.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked whether he would commit to transferring power.
President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud and a “rigged” outcome.
The Biden campaign has prepared for any “shenanigans” from the Trump administration, and restated comments from July that “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Eleanor M. Novek, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Communications, considers “a steady diet of disparaging comments from the president and social media trolls” regarding mail-in ballots to be the root of public distrust during the election process.
“Disinformation campaigns use that tactic around the world to undermine faith in voting in general,” Novek said. “What worries me the most is not that the election itself will be meddled with. My fear is that people will come to believe that their votes will not be counted and so they will not even bother to vote. An outcome like that would disenfranchise many voters and serve the incumbent more than the challenger.”
The results of the November election are anybody’s guess, Novek admitted. “The president isn’t known for making truthful statements, so I think his comments about refusing to accept the election results work mainly as a distraction,” Novek said. “While his outrageous remarks can always be counted on to light up social media and send reporters scrambling to get reactions, his administration is quietly overturning decades of public policy that protects the environment, preserves reproductive rights, provides health care, and much more.”
The poll also suggests Joe Biden as being seen as more respectful to American troops than President Trump, yet recent news stories regarding this issue have not impacted the overall race for president.
A report in The Atlantic said the president called troops killed in combat “losers” and “suckers,” an allegation he has denied.
“Biden has an edge on the question of respecting those who serve in our armed forces, but it doesn’t really look like recent allegations of Trump allegedly disparaging them have created any notable change in the campaign’s trajectory,” said Murray.
Regarding a “secret vote” coming to light in the 2020 election, Murray says there exists “plenty of evidence” there was no measurable secret vote in the 2016 election or this year, either.
“However, voters’ belief that a secret Trump vote does exist is a very real phenomenon we need to acknowledge,” Murray said. “If this expected vote does not materialize on Election Day, some Democrats will be pleasantly surprised and some Republicans will be shocked. The question is how many in this latter group will go one step further and reject the validity of the result.”
IMAGE TAKEN from Associated Press