A year later, a large majority of Republican voters still refuses to acknowledge President Biden’s 2020 election victory, which doesn’t bode well for US democracy. The most recent Bright Line Watch survey finds that just 27 percent of Republicans believe Biden is the rightful presidential winner, compared to 94 percent of Democrats.
Bright Line Watch, a nonpartisan watchdog group of leading political scientists who has been monitoring US democratic practices since 2017, was cofounded by Gretchen Helmke, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester, and her colleagues at the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College. Bright Line Watch conducts regular surveys designed to gauge the overall stability and performance of American democracy.
“For a democracy to survive, parties must be willing to lose elections and politicians must be willing to acknowledge when they have lost,” warns Helmke. “The fact that the Republican Party is unwilling to acknowledge the 2020 loss fundamentally undermines the most basic principle of our democracy.”
The group’s latest survey finds that voters’ confidence in next year’s midterm elections has already been affected: only 62 percent of Americans said they were “very” or “somewhat confident” that votes nationwide would be counted correctly. Divisions along partisan lines have notably deepened. While 80 percent of Democrats generally expressed confidence in fair elections, only 42 percent of Republicans felt that way.
Among the key findings
- Partisan divisions over the legitimacy of the 2020 election remain profound.
- Democrats underestimate the commitment of Republican supporters to democratic norms and principles, and Republicans underestimate the commitment of Democrats.
- While support for political violence had been overstated in prior surveys, millions of Americans still explicitly endorse political violence directed against the other party.
- Experts and the public believe that fundamental changes are needed to make the American government work for current times. Most needed are policy and rule changes that don’t require constitutional amendments.
- Experts strongly prefer Senate seats to be apportioned to states by population numbers rather than equally. This preference is shared by Democrats, but opposed by Republicans and Independents. Overall, the public prefers the status quo.
- Experts are relatively evenly divided about which of numerous problems facing American democracy is most severe, though they rank economic inequality, unrepresentative political institutions, and racial inequality generally highest.
- Experts see a number of reforms to campaign and legislative rules and practices as beneficial to democracy. With few exceptions, however, they think these reforms are quite unlikely to be enacted.
- Expert and public perceptions of the performance of US democracy have changed little since June 2021.