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Republicans Are Less Confident Than Democrats That The Election Will Be Conducted Fairly

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

During Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Trump once again refused to commit to accepting the results of the 2020 election. He also repeatedly made misleading or false claims about the integrity of the election.

It’s no surprise, then, that many Americans are pessimistic about whether the election will be free and fair. At the moment, these doubts are most pronounced among Republicans, who are far more likely to trust or believe the president than Democrats or independents.

In a NBC News/SurveyMonkey’s weekly tracking poll released ahead of Tuesday’s debate, 56 percent of Americans said they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that the election would be conducted in a free and equal way, including 65 percent of Republicans. And as the chart below shows, Republicans in that tracking poll have consistently been more likely to say they lack confidence in the electoral process than Democrats or independents.

One reason Republicans are more concerned at this point is because Trump and the GOP have for many months now cast doubt on the electoral process, in particular the use of mail voting. Historically, mail voting hadn’t been a partisan issue, but now most Republicans don’t trust it: In that NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, 79 percent of Republicans said they opposed changing election laws to allow everyone to vote by mail, though 53 percent of Americans overall supported the idea.

Other surveys have also found that Republicans have more doubts about the fairness of the election. A poll released on Monday by Monmouth University found that 39 percent of registered voters weren’t confident that the election would be conducted fairly and accurately, including 44 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, in The Economist/YouGov’s weekly poll, 28 percent of registered voters said they had only a little confidence or none at all that the 2020 election would be held fairly. The differences by party were smaller here — 30 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats held this view — but Democrats were more likely to say they had a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the election (44 percent) than Republicans (32 percent).

Overall, Democrats have more confidence about the election than Republicans, but there is plenty of doubt, too. In the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, half of all Democrats said they were confident the election process would be free and equal, the first time since early August that at least 50 percent of Democratic respondents to this survey’s question felt that way. However, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 36 percent of voters didn’t think the election would be free and fair, including 41 percent of Democrats and just 31 percent of Republicans. Democrats also expressed slightly less trust in the U.S. electoral system (62 percent) than Republicans (72 percent).

It’s worth noting, though, that question wording and which part of the electoral process is being asked about can influence how people respond. For instance, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll asked if voters were confident that their state and local governments would run a fair and accurate election, and only 26 percent of likely voters said they weren’t confident. Republicans were still more likely to express doubts (30 percent) than Democrats (18 percent), but those numbers suggest that respondents have comparatively more faith in state and local officials carrying out the election than they have in the electoral process more generally. Similarly, 57 percent of registered voters told The Economist/YouGov that they had a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that their own vote would be counted, while only 36 percent expressed the same level of confidence that the election as a whole would be held fairly.

The bottom line, however, is that a lot of Americans don’t trust the electoral system, and more probably had faith in the electoral process four years ago than they do now. In September 2016, 59 percent of registered voters in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey said that the result of the election would be counted accurately, while only 34 percent disagreed. But this past August, the same pollster found registered voters split on that question, with 45 percent expressing confidence that the results would be accurately counted and 45 percent saying they weren’t confident.

Other polling bites

  • Morning Consult asked Americans about how the recent news about Trump’s tax returns and business losses affected their views of the president. The poll found that before being told about the news, 54 percent felt Trump was a successful businessman, but after hearing the story, that figure fell to 44 percent. The poll also found that 50 percent of voters thought Trump’s business interests were mainly a bad thing when it came to his decision-making as president, while just 31 percent viewed them as a good thing. And 47 percent said it was a “major issue” that Trump had misled Americans about his financial success.
  • A new poll from Reuters/Ipsos found that 48 percent of Americans believed the New York Times’s report about Trump’s tax returns, while 25 percent did not (27 percent said they didn’t know). However, a plurality (47 percent) said the Times’s report showed Trump was a successful businessman who knew how to avoid paying taxes, while 32 percent said it depicted the president as an unsuccessful businessman drowning in debt. That said, a majority (51 percent) still said Trump had not been paying his fair share in taxes, while just 26 percent said he had.
  • With the possibility the Supreme Court will have a 6-3 conservative majority if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed by the Senate, NBC News/SurveyMonkey found that 66 percent of Americans did not want Roe v. Wade “completely overturned.” Just 29 percent did. Republicans were more likely to express support for dismantling the ruling that protects a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, but 47 percent of Republicans still opposed overturning the law, as did 86 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents.
  • In terms of filling the Supreme Court vacancy, Monmouth University found that 51 percent of registered voters disapproved of Trump filling the seat before the election, while 46 percent approved. However, a majority (53 percent) thought the U.S. Senate should still hold hearings on Trump’s nominee. Meanwhile, the New York Times/Siena College found that 56 percent of likely voters felt the winner of the election should get to fill the seat, but they were split on whether the Senate should act (47 percent) or not act (48 percent) on Trump’s nominee ahead of the election. The Times/Siena survey also found more voters trusted Biden (50 percent) than Trump (43 percent) to pick the next justice.
  • A new study from the Pew Research Center found that an increasing number of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for health care coverage. Overall, 63 percent supported either a single national government program or a mix of government and private programs to achieve that aim, up from 59 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, 37 percent preferred the current system of Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, or said they didn’t want government involvement of any kind.
  • Speaking of governmental intervention, a new poll from Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans want the government to do more to solve the nation’s problems, while 41 percent said the government is doing too much. Gallup has been polling on this question for about three decades, and this marked the first time an outright majority of Americans have preferred more government intervention.
  • In a survey by Univision News/Latino Decisions/North Star Opinion Research, 66 percent of Latino registered voters planned to support Biden, compared to 24 percent who plan to back Trump. But it also found Biden ahead by only 16 points among Latino voters in Florida, 52 percent to 36 percent. If Biden struggles to run up his margins among Latino voters in that key swing state, Trump could carry Florida, which is critical to his chances of winning the election.
  • The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding released the 2020 American Muslim Poll, an annual snapshot of the views and experiences of American Muslims. The survey found that Muslims were more likely to support working with Black Lives Matter and more likely to attend town hall meetings than other religious groups, but they were also less likely to be registered to vote. Additionally, 60 percent reported experiencing religious discrimination, and compared to the non-Muslim population, they were far more likely to say they’d encountered discrimination at the airport or when applying for a job.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 43.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.8 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -8.9 points). At this time last week, 42.9 percent approved and 53.2 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.3 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 43.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.0 percent, for a net approval rating of -9.7 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot,2 Democrats currently lead by 6.1 percentage points (48.8 percent to 42.7 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.4 points (48.8 percent to 42.3 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.3 points (48.5 percent to 41.2 percent).


  1. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday

  2. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.