Election fairness, confidence in democracy remain a partisan issue

New Axios/Ipsos poll finds overall sentiment consistent with 2019, but that masks significant partisan shifts

The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, November 20, 2021

A new Axios/Ipsos poll finds that on the surface, Americans have similar levels of confidence in presidential elections as they did in 2019. However, the topline figures mask a drastic, and nearly equal, flip in perceptions among Democrats and Republicans. Since 2019, Republicans have become increasingly pessimistic, while confidence has improved among Democrats.

The poll also finds dramatic shifts in confidence by voting method along party lines, particularly with mail-in ballots. This comes in the wake of the surge of votes cast by mail during the 2020 election as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — and the ensuing partisan debate over the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and those cast on electronic voting systems.

Independents, unlike Democrats and Republicans, have similar confidence in the process at large, and in each voting method asked about as they did in 2019.

There are still areas where Americans on both sides of the aisle feel aspirational about our democracy, and that’s the consequences and impact of elections.


Detailed Findings

1. Topline confidence in American presidential elections appears constant compared to 2019 but this is due to equal, and significant, shifts between Democrats and Republicans. Regardless, majorities across parties have confidence in the 2022 midterms.

  • A similar share of Americans (51%) are confident the next presidential election will be open and fair as they were in 2019 (53%).
  • However, confidence levels have essentially flipped between Democrats and Republicans from 2019 to now. Republican confidence has plummeted from 72% in 2019 to 37% today. Meanwhile, confidence among Democrats has increased from 39% in 2019 to 69% today.
  • Independents have remained stable; in both 2019 (55%) and 2021 (52%), a majority report having confidence that the next presidential election will be open and fair.
  • Two thirds (65%) of Americans are confident next year’s midterms will reflect the will of the voters, including 75% of Democrats, 63% of Republicans and 64% of Independents.

voting1

2. Similarly, confidence in each voting method has largely remained flat compared 2019 on the surface. This overall stability once again masks drastic differences by party, particularly with mail in ballots.

  • Three quarters of Americans are confident votes cast from paper ballots (77%) and electronic voting systems (72%) in midterm elections will be accurate, as do a majority (58%) when it comes to mail-in ballots. Each of these are essentially unchanged from 2019 (72%, 68%, 60%, respectively). Fewer, just over one in three (36%), are confident in votes cast over the internet.
  • Here too, confidence in each method of voting has essentially flipped between Democrats and Republicans from 2019 to now.
  • Confidence of mail in ballots among Republicans has nearly been cut in half (from 63% in 2019 to 33% now). Conversely, significantly more Democrats are very confident in their accuracy (from 13% in 2019 to 49% now). Independents’ confidence is unchanged (62% in 2019 and now).
  • A large majority of Americans (72%) support the recent Supreme Court ruling that continues to require election officials in a state to count absentee or mail-in ballots that were mailed by Election Day and received within three days after Election Day.
    • Support is highest among Democrats (89%) and Independents (76%).
    • Comparatively fewer – though still a majority of – Republicans (58%) support it.

voting2

3. Democrats and Republicans alike are not confident the other party is committed to ensuring fair elections. Independents have similar confidence in the parties as they did in 2019 but are instead losing faith in their fellow Americans.

  • Nearly three in four Democrats (71%) and Republicans (74%) believe the other side is not committed to making sure elections in the United States are fair and accurate.
  • This marks an increase in the number of Republicans who believe Democrats are not committed to fair elections since 2019 (from 62% to 74%).
  • Confidence in fellow Americans’ choices on election day has declined among Independents from 45% in 2019 to 37% today.

4. Americans still vote because they believe elections have consequences and believe it is important to accept the outcome.

  • A sizeable majority of Americans (70%) believe elections are consequential, and relatively few (14%) think elections won’t ever lead to real change that will improve their daily life.
    • This is largely consistent across political ideologies and from 2019 to now.
  • A majority of Democrats (54%), Republicans (51%), and Independents (63%) believe an independent, non-politician commission should be in charge of redistricting.
  • Although a majority (58%) of Republicans incorrectly believe there was enough fraud in the 2020 election to have changed the outcome, vast majorities (75%+) across the political spectrum believe it is more important to accept the results of an election, even if the winner is from a political party whose views they don’t agree with than to explore every avenue possible to keep a political party whose views they don’t agree with out of power.
  • However, a relatively small faction of Republicans (20%), Democrats (12%) and Independents (12%) want to win at all costs.

About the Study

This Axios/Ipsos Election Policy poll was conducted November 3rd to November 14th, 2021 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,273 general population adults age 18 or older. The sample includes 431 Democrats, 308 Republicans, and 421 Independents.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, race/ethnicity by gender, race/ethnicity by age, race/ethnicity by education and race/ethnicity by region. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) from the US Census Bureau with metropolitan status from the 2021 March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by gender (Male, Female)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by age (18-44, 45+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by education (Less than college grad, Bachelor and beyond)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for Democrats. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for Republicans. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for Independents. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.17 for the entire sample, 1.20 for Democrats, 1.13 for Republicans, and 1.18 for Independents. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

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The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs

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