GW Politics Poll Finds Varying Confidence in State and Local Elections

Voter trust in state and local election officials varies by geography and party affiliation

July 27, 2021

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WASHINGTON (July 26, 2021) — Democratic voters continue to have more faith in state and local elections than Republicans, according to new data from the George Washington University Politics Poll. However, confidence in state and local election officials appears to vary depending on voters’ location and party affiliation. Results from the new survey show that Republican voters in states that former president Trump won report far higher levels of confidence in their state and local officials than GOP voters in states that went for President Biden.
Among Democrats there is a similar, though less pronounced, pattern with trust higher in Biden states than in Trump states. 
“Most of the state and local officials who run our elections are long-time public servants whose goal is simply to help our democracy operate smoothly,” Danny Hayes, professor of political science and co-director of the GW Politics Poll, said. “But if we’ve gotten to a place where voters trust the electoral system only when their side wins, then that undermines the idea of non-partisan election administration, which is essential for democracy.”
The poll, conducted in June, showed that 85% of surveyed Democrats expressed trust in their local election officials and 76% also felt that way about their state officials, compared to 63% and 44% of Republicans, respectively. GOP voters’ faith in their state election officials jumped to 70% if they lived in a state won by Trump in 2020. However, only 24% of Republicans living in states that Biden won have confidence in their state elections.
Other key results from the poll include the following:
Democratic voters’ confidence in the integrity of the upcoming 2022 elections is similar to their confidence going into the 2020 election. Last year before the November election, 76% of surveyed Democrats expressed confidence in the upcoming elections. This year’s poll found that 75% of Democratic voters were confident in next year’s elections. Republicans are less confident in the 2022 elections (28%) than they were before the 2020 vote (46%). 
The survey showed that 82% of Republicans agreed with the statement, “It is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout.” Only 15% of Democratic voters agreed.
Support for fundamental principles such as free and fair elections, free speech and peaceful protest are nearly unanimous among both Democrats and Republicans. Their views on other democratic values, however, differ dramatically. Over half of Republicans (55%) supported the possible use of force to preserve the “traditional American way of life,” compared to 15% of Democrats. When asked if a time will come when “patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands,” 47% of Republicans agreed, as opposed to just 9% of Democrats.
Among all surveyed voters, 51% approved of President Biden’s performance as chief executive;  47% did not approve of the way he was handling the job as president. A mere 25% of respondents approved of the performance of Congress, with 69% disapproving.
The GW Politics Poll is a joint venture of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, Department of Political Science, and the Graduate School of Political Management. The most recent survey of 1,753 registered voters, conducted June 4-23, was the final wave of a 4-wave panel that began in October with 2,500 voters. Conducted by YouGov, the survey is matched to produce a nationally representative sample.