There are three key facts about the integrity of American elections: (1) any voter fraud that occurs is negligible (2) voter suppression, for example through longer lines for minority or younger voters, might be a real factor. (3) Public opinion has it exactly reversed: Americans, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, are concerned about the existence of voter fraud (not real), but, only a majority of Democrats are concerned about voter suppression (real).
Democrats say voter fraud exists, but do not really believe any of the mechanisms of voter fraud. Republicans say voter fraud exists and really do believe, in reasonable numbers, that masses of people voter in multiple states, undocumented immigrants votes, and people vote on the registrations of the deceased. Which is false.
“Is voter fraud a problem in US elections?” 63 percent of Americans think it is, with 55 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans. But, we also ask the about the different manifestations of voter fraud and people are far less certain that any of them actually happen. “Did masses of undocumented immigrants vote in the 2016 election?”: 45 percent of Americans agree, with 32 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans. “Did masses of people vote with the registrations of dead people in the 2016 election?” 44 percent agree, with 30 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans. “Did masses of people vote in multiple states in the 2016 election?” We record 48 percent agreement, with 39 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans.
Democrats say voter suppression exists and really do believe in the mechanisms. Republicans have a lighter belief in voter suppression, but do believe that long lines deter eligible voters from voting and voter ID laws blocked eligible votes unable to attain them.
“Is voter suppression a problem in US elections?” 56 percent of Americans think it is, with 65 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans. Unlike voter fraud, there is more consistent agreement that the different manifestations of voter suppression actually happen. “Were masses of eligible voters unable to vote due to long lines in the 2016 election?” 48 percent think so, with 53 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans. “Were masses of eligible voters unable to vote due to voter registration purges in the 2016 election?” 37 percent think so, with 43 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans. “Were masses of eligible voters unable to vote due to onerous voter ID laws in the 2016 election?” 42 percent think so, with 51 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of Republicans.
In total, belief in the fairness of the next elections are incredibly weak: half all Americans think that the 2020 election will be “free and fair” (49 percent among Democrats and 57 percent among Republicans).
The PredictWise and Pollfish survey received responses from 1,200 people on March 6, 2017 through online and in-app polling methods. We do not report margin of error because we do not believe it can be accurately estimated.
Tobias Konitzer is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University. Find him on Twitter @KonitzerTobias.
Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @scorbettdavies.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.