Whether Biden or Trump Wins, Many Americans Will Call the Election Rigged | Opinion

Election Day is just days away, and tens of millions of Americans have already voted, but whether they will accept the results is a real question. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election is rigged, refused to commit to accepting the outcome and predicted that it will end up in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service's on-time delivery rates dropped sharply this summer, resulting in widespread fears that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, is trying to disenfranchise Americans voting by mail.

To see just how far the fear and distrust go, we polled 2,015 Americans from October 8 to 21. We asked this nationally representative group about their views toward various kinds of fraud and other activities that would undermine our democracy. To see who believed in which threat, we asked respondents to provide their party affiliation.

We asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement "There is a conspiracy to stop the U.S. Post Office from processing mail-in ballots." In total, 41 percent of Americans agreed, with 31 percent disagreeing. By party, 56 percent of Democrats agreed, while 31 percent of Republicans did.

We also asked respondents if they agreed with the statement that "In terms of voting this year, allowing ballots to be sent by mail will increase instances of voter fraud." Almost a majority of Americans—47 percent—agreed with that sentiment. That includes 70 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats.

This suggests that Trump's rhetoric has deeply affected his Republican base. Extensive research has shown that voter fraud is extremely rare, and even before the pandemic, all states allowed at least some of their voting population to vote by mail. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington conduct all elections by mail.

We also asked, "If your preferred candidate does not win the presidential election, how likely do you think election fraud will have been involved?" Forty-two percent of respondents thought it was somewhat or very likely, with 45 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats believing such. In this case, suspicion over the election outcome is a bipartisan activity.

Finally, we asked respondents if they agreed that if he lost the election, "Donald Trump will not willingly leave office." Forty-nine percent agreed, including 72 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans. Given Trump's rhetoric about not honoring the eventual election outcome, it is not shocking that this number is so high. However, no president has not left office after his term was up.

Much of this anxiety is to be expected in a presidential election year. However, these numbers are higher than they have been in previous years, suggesting that the pandemic-related changes to voting, cost-cutting measures and service issues at the Postal Service, and rhetoric coming from the president and other lawmakers have driven these fears to new heights. No matter what the election outcome, it is likely to be met with suspicion—especially if it takes days or weeks to be determined.

Joseph E. Uscinski is associate professor of political science at University of Miami, College of Arts & Sciences. Casey Klofstad is professor of political science at University of Miami, College of Arts & Sciences.

The views expressed in this article are the authors' own.