ReThink Polling Analysis
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of relevant polls released Sep 1–Nov 5
Democracy — Fall Bulletin

The Top Line 

  • One poll suggests the public is still divided over whether there was widespread voter fraud and/or Russian meddling in 2016, with significant partisan divides on each.
  • One poll finds that overwhelming majorities believe money in politics and wealthy political donors are sources of political dysfunction.
  • Two polls find that a bipartisan majority supports fair districting.
  • Republican trust in the courts has risen 31 points since 2016, and more say the Supreme Court is too conservative than too liberal for the first time in a decade.

Voting Rights: Fraud and Russian Meddling in 2016

An early-October Economist/YouGov poll suggests the public is divided on the issue of 2016 voter fraud. By 52–49%, Americans lean toward saying it is not true that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, but the split is within the margin of error and paints a worrying picture for voting rights advocates. (This poll adds up to 101% due to a rounding error.)

A Quinnipiac poll from March and an Economist/YouGov poll from June found higher percentages (63% and 56%, respectively) who say there was no voter fraud. The 9-point difference between March and October may represent a downward trend, but differences in Quinnipiac and YouGov survey methodologies and YouGov’s margins of error make this difficult to say with confidence. ReThink will continue to track polling on this question.

According to the October YouGov poll, large proportions also believe Russia boosted Trump’s candidacy through fake news (56%), email hacking (52%), or vote tampering (39%). (Economist/YouGov)

Beliefs about voter fraud and Russian meddling have a fairly significant partisan split, as YouGov’s October poll demonstrates. Sixty-four percent of Republicans (72% of Trump voters) say widespread voter fraud occurred, compared to 46% of Democrats (25% of Clinton voters). On the other hand, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say Russia disseminated fake news (89 vs. 25%), hacked emails (87 vs. 20%), or tampered with vote tallies (66 vs. 14%). (Economist/YouGov)


As Americans struggle to make sense of the 2016 election, WaPo/UMD has found that public pride in US democracy is at a 20-year low. Thirty-six percent are “not proud” of the way US democracy is working, a 20-point increase over 1996 and 18-point increase over the 2014 midpoint of Obama’s second term. Sixty-four percent also believe the US political system is “dysfunctional,” with 72% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans holding this view. (Washington Post/University of Maryland)

A Pew Global Attitudes Survey from the spring similarly found that 51% of Americans have low satisfaction with the way US democracy is working. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be satisfied (68 vs. 31%), which is similar to the other democratic countries surveyed, where those aligned with the party in power express higher satisfaction. (Pew)

Despite diminishing faith in US democracy, Americans express faith in democracy itself. According to Pew, large majorities (67–86%) believe direct democracy and representative democracy are a good thing.

Forty percent say the same about rule by unelected experts, 22% a “strong leader” who makes decisions “without interference from parliament or the courts,” and 17% military rule. Partisan divides are marked on “strong leader” rule—one in three Republicans believes this is a good thing, whereas only 17% of Democrats say the same. (Pew)

Money in Politics

According to WaPo/UMD, supermajorities (96 and 94%) believe “money in politics” and “wealthy political donors” are sources of political dysfunction, with majorities (65 and 56%, respectively) believing each carries “a lot” of the blame.

Money in politics and wealthy donors are the top reported sources of dysfunction, ahead of “social media” (93%), people with extreme political views (93%), and the Republican Party (91%). Republicans and Democrats are just as likely to believe money in politics (98 and 96%) and wealthy political donors (95 and 94%) are sources of political dysfunction, though these results are based on a half sample. (Washington Post/University of Maryland)

On the subject of political advertising transparency on social media, an October Marist poll found that a 47% plurality thinks political ads on social media should be regulated, and 78% believe tech companies should disclose who pays for them. More Democrats than Republicans (54 vs. 41%) believe social media political ads should be regulated, though support for disclosure is bipartisan (78 vs. 80%). (Marist Poll)

According to a CNN/SRSS poll, 59% of Americans are "not too confident" (26%) or "not at all confident" (32%) tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google "are doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing elections." Despite Republicans in the Marist poll being less likely to support regulation, they are slightly more likely than Democrats (63 vs. 57%) in the CNN poll to believe tech companies are not doing enough to prevent foreign election interference. (CNN/SRSS)

Fair Districting

On the eve of oral arguments for Gill et al. v. Whitford, Economist/YouGov found that 52% of US adults want the Supreme Court to strike down congressional districts “drawn to give lopsided advantages to the party in power.” Thirty-nine percent are unsure, and only 9% believe SCOTUS should uphold lopsided districts.

Support is bipartisan, with a plurality of Republicans (45%) and a majority of Democrats (65%) supporting a strikedown. Only 15% of Republicans, the usual beneficiaries of lopsided districts, want SCOTUS to uphold them. However, more Republicans (40%) than Democrats (28%) are unsure. (Economist/YouGov)

An earlier, sponsored poll of likely voters by Lake Research Partners for the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) found 71% support for “new, clear rules for determining when partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution,” with only 15% opposed and 13% not sure.

This support is bipartisan, with 80% of Democrats (79% of Clinton voters) and 65% of Republicans (64% of Trump voters) agreeing. A similar proportion (73%) prefers congressional districts “with no partisan bias whatsoever,” a sentiment with bipartisan support among Democrats (74%) and Republicans (71%). Sixty-two percent say they would not vote for candidates who support partisan gerrymandering.

The poll also found that 67% of respondents are in favor of new rules on partisan gerrymandering when they hear an argument focusing on democracy and equal representation (principles). Support is slightly lower, 62%, when the argument focuses on instances of partisan gerrymandering (outcomes). It may thus be more persuasive to discuss partisan gerrymandering on principles rather than outcomes, although a 5-point difference is not conclusive. (Lake/CLC)

There is a large spread of opposition (52–71%) and uncertainty (39–13%) between Economist/YouGov and Lake Research polls. This may be because Lake used live telephone calls, while YouGov uses online surveys. ReThink has observed that telephone surveys tend to elicit fewer “don’t know” responses.

Lake also polled “likely voters,” who may know more about partisan gerrymandering than non-voters, and who are certainly more concerned about their vote counting. Moreover, “likely voters” are not a random sample, and Lake will have made choices about who is in that group.

Lake is also a single-issue poll, providing more information to respondents than YouGov. The higher level of uncertainty among YouGov respondents may nonetheless point to a knowledge gap on this complex issue among members of the broader public. Without more polls on partisan gerrymandering, we cannot be certain.

Fair Courts

Large proportions of the public and likely voters have favorable views of the Supreme Court. Reuters/IPSOS found that 68% of the public has “confidence” in Supreme Court justices. Gallup found that 49% approve of how SCOTUS is handling its job. Gallup found that a 45% plurality has a favorable opinion of SCOTUS. Lake Research found that significantly more (64%) likely voters have a favorable opinion of SCOTUS. WaPo/UMD found that 57% believe SCOTUS is “functional,” the highest rating among the bodies of government polled. (Reuters/IPSOS; Gallup; Lake Research Partners/Campaign Legal Center; Washington Post/University of Maryland)

A 43% plurality believes SCOTUS’ ideology is “just about right,” according to Gallup. However, more Americans say SCOTUS is “too conservative” (30%) than “too liberal” (23%) for the first time in a decade, likely the result of Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation. (Gallup)

Gallup found that 68% have a great deal (16%) or a fair amount (52%) of trust in the courts more broadly. This tracks steady over decades, but has increased 7 points since 2016. Republican optimism is the main driver of this uptick: Republican trust in the judiciary rose by 31 points between 2016 and 2017 (48% to 79%), whereas Democrats’ trust fell 74% to 62%, likely the result of President Trump’s election and Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation. (Gallup) | facebook | twitter

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