The 2016 presidential election opened up a debate on the American democratic process. There were numerous accusations of voter fraud, reports of primary fixing, and even allegations of Russian meddling in the election. Now a new study is showing that there’s even more to worry about.
The new concern focuses on the way the President’s rhetoric can sway the opinion of his base, even when there’s no evidence to support those concerns.
President Trump still contends that the votes of illegal aliens prevented him from winning the popular election. His estimate is that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast. There’s no hard evidence supporting those numbers, but he is sticking by them.
The fear is that his republican base will believe the assertions, with or without evidence. And those fears of corruption will color how they view future election security.
Now the Washington Post, long opposed to a Trump presidency, has done a study that captures the mindset of some Republicans.
“How far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud?” The post asks. “Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem.”
That number, of course, is a bit abstract. “About half,” is not half. And there would have had to have been some rigorous testing in order to make such assertions about the whole of the party, as their thesis does. So just how was their study conducted?
“The survey interviewed a sample of 1,325 Americans from June 5 through 20. Respondents were recruited from the Qualtrics online panel who had previously reported identifying with or leaning toward one of the two major parties. We focus on the 650 respondents who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. The sample has been weighted to match the population in terms of sex, age, race and education.”
So their claims are based on a limited sample, to be sure.
“After a series of initial questions, respondents were asked whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs. These questions evoke arguments frequently made by Trump and others about the integrity of the 2016 election.”
After these questions, the survey asked about postponing the election in an effort to preserve the integrity of the democratic process. The question reads as follows:
“If Donald Trump were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote, would you support or oppose postponing the election?”
If that wasn’t enough, there’s another version. “What if both Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote? Would you support or oppose postponing the election?”
The results were predictably split along party lines, but the data suggests even republicans are split on the question of postponing elections.
“Nearly half of Republicans (47 percent) believe that Trump won the popular vote, which is similar to this finding. Larger fractions believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted (68 percent) and that voter fraud happens somewhat or very often (73 percent). Again, this is similar to previous polls.”
“52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.”
The Washington Post’s conclusion here is this: “a substantial number of Republicans are amenable to violations of democratic norms that are more flagrant than what is typically proposed.”
There is another interpretation. If a future election were to be found to be unduly influenced by forces outside of the control of our government (including the Congress and Senate as the survey’s question proposes), it would be in the best interest of the nation to ensure that the problem was properly addressed. Such action, if handled legally, would likely be supported by both parties. And yet this study finds that such action would be dismissed by half of the Republicans, and all of the Democrats.