One year after a mob of Donald Trump loyalists tried to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory by laying violent siege to the U.S. Capitol, the “big lie” that fueled their attack has only become more entrenched. Today, a full three-quarters of Trump voters (75 percent) falsely believe the election was “rigged and stolen,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — more than ever before.
Just 9 percent, meanwhile, think Biden “won fair and square” — down from 13 percent last January.
The fact that Trump’s “stolen election” myth is not just lingering but growing underscores the deep and ongoing damage American society has sustained from Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the election results.
Biden voters and Trump voters don’t agree on much, but nearly all of them — 88 percent of the former and 89 percent of the latter — now say they are “worried about the future of U.S. democracy.”
Their reasons, of course, are different. The poll of 1,537 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Dec. 18 to 22, 2021, found that Trump voters overwhelmingly buy the former president’s fabrication that there was enough fraud in 2020 “to influence the outcome” (75 percent). As a result, a majority of Trump voters (52 percent) are convinced that the next election will be “rigged” as well.
Among Biden voters, the fear is that false accusations of fraud could trigger “another attack like Jan. 6” (75 percent) — or simply provide a pretext for Republican politicians in key battleground states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania to keep proposing and passing laws that would make it easier to reject their own citizens’ votes and hand the Electoral College to the Republican presidential nominee.
Yet despite such differences, the overall effect is largely the same on both the right and the left: plummeting confidence in the democratic process.
Before the 2020 election, nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) said they at least trusted their own state “to accurately count the votes in the next presidential election.” Since then, even that number has fallen 10 points, to 53 percent. At the same time, clear majorities of both Trump voters (56 percent) and Biden voters (57 percent) now say U.S. democracy is less secure than it was prior to Jan. 6.
This pessimism is particularly evident in response to questions about coming electoral contests. Only 27 percent of Americans, for instance, believe the next election will be “free and fair.” Just 31 percent say “no” when asked if the same election will be “rigged” in favor of one candidate or another. And less than a quarter (23 percent) believe election experts who insist that a U.S. presidential election cannot be rigged.
To be sure, Trump voters are less inclined to say the next election will be “free and fair” (10 percent) than Biden voters (41 percent). But that still means 6 in 10 Biden voters either think the next contest won’t be free and fair (14 percent) or aren’t sure (45 percent). Given that the same Americans almost unanimously believe 2020 was free and fair (94 percent), this signals a striking loss of confidence likely triggered by GOP efforts to alter election laws after 2020.
Unfortunately, there is little sign that trust in U.S. democracy will be restored anytime soon. While Biden voters (81 percent) and Trump voters (82 percent) also agree that “violent protest is never justified in the U.S. as a way for a group to accomplish its goals,” the latter are increasingly convinced that the Jan. 6 attack wasn’t actually violent or unjustified.
In fact, twice as many Trump voters now say the events of Jan. 6 were justified (23 percent) as said the same immediately after the siege itself (11 percent). Nearly 6 in 10 continue to think — as they did in a May 2021 Yahoo News/YouGov poll — that the people who participated that day were “primarily peaceful and law-abiding” (57 percent) rather than “primarily violent and lawless” (26 percent), even though multiple protesters have been convicted and imprisoned after clear evidence that they assaulted Capitol Police has emerged. And when asked how the attack on the Capitol made them feel, fewer Trump voters now say “angry” (down from 45 percent to 34 percent) — while more say “proud” (up from 7 percent to 14 percent) or “excited” (up from 5 percent to 13 percent).
“The thing that’s most concerning is that it has endured in the face of all evidence,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — one of just two Republicans who agreed to sit on the House of Representatives’ select committee to investigate the attack — recently told NPR. “And I’ve gotten to wonder if there is actually any evidence that would ever change certain people’s minds.”
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests the committee’s investigation is unlikely to do the trick. While nearly all Biden voters want more investigations “to find out the truth of what happened” (86 percent) and believe that the most important thing is to “hold Trump and others accountable for their role in the attack” (91 percent), nearly every Trump voter disagrees that the then president incited violence (84 percent) and says it’s more important to “put the attack on the U.S. Capitol behind us” (85 percent). In fact, fewer Trump voters blame Trump (15 percent) or even the “Trump supporters who gathered at the U.S. Capitol” (38 percent) for the attack than blame nonexistent “left wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad” (82 percent).
The result is that Biden voters overwhelmingly approve of the committee (89 percent), while Trump voters overwhelmingly disapprove of it (75 percent).
All in all, a slim majority of Americans (51 percent) side with Biden voters and favor the committee’s work, in large part because self-identified Republicans (64 percent) as well as independents (41 percent) are significantly less likely than Trump voters to oppose it. Similar numbers of Americans say Trump should testify if subpoenaed (53 percent), as should his former chief of staff Mark Meadows (56 percent) and his former adviser Steve Bannon (56 percent), both of whom have refused to cooperate with the investigation. Half of Americans (50 percent) say uncooperative witnesses such as Meadows and Bannon should face criminal charges, while just under one-third (32 percent) say they should not.
But ultimately just 20 percent of U.S. adults say they are following news about the House’s Jan. 6 panel “very closely,” and those people are twice as likely to be Biden voters (36 percent) than Trump voters (18 percent). About two-thirds of Biden voters believe the committee will “report the truth about the attack” (65 percent); likewise, they describe the committee as the “most truthful source of information about Jan. 6” (69 percent). But more Trump voters say the committee will not report the truth (78 percent), skewing the results among Americans overall: 30 percent yes, 42 percent no, 28 percent not sure.
As for Trump voters’ preferred source of “truthful” information about Jan. 6, it is not the House committee (5 percent) or even “outlets such as Fox News” (24 percent) — but rather Trump himself (26 percent).
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,537 U.S. adults interviewed online from Dec. 18 to 22, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6 percent.