Trouble ahead? Most Republicans don’t trust midterm election count to be fair, poll finds

  • Democrats trust the midterm election count; Republicans don’t
  • By 2-1, Republicans would vote for a candidate who denies Biden’s election
  • Concern about democracy is bipartisan, but the reasons conflict

With Election Day a week away, almost two-thirds of Republicans aren’t prepared to trust the midterm results, saying they worry the vote count could be manipulated.

The findings in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll portray a political landscape primed for lawsuits, recounts and conspiracy theories to follow the 2022 election, even as former president Donald Trump continues to press the debunked argument that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

By nearly 2-1, 62%-32%, Republicans say they are worried the midterm results could be manipulated. In contrast, Democrats overwhelmingly trust the count to be fair and accurate, 76%-21%.

“I’m concerned, I’m very concerned,” about the vote count, said Denise Paolucci, 62, a registered nurse from Raveena, Ohio, who was among those surveyed. A Republican, she voted for Trump in 2020. “It’s just these Democrats are so crooked.”

But Judi Stadler, 72, a retired school counselor from Mequon, Wisconsin, said the threat to democracy comes from efforts to undermine faith in and overturn legitimate election results. A political independent, she voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

“I remember (Richard) Nixon resigning; I remember how scary that all was, but nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing compared to what we’re going through now,” she said. “I’m feeling very anxious, is the word, about the elections.”

The poll of 1,000 likely midterm voters, taken by landline and cell phone Oct. 19-24, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Obama is back:‘Who will fight for your freedoms?’ Obama stumps for Georgia Democrats ahead of midterms

Voting rights:Voter access state-by-state

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows 2/3 of Republicans don't trust the midterm vote counting process.

Would you vote for an election denier? 

Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud in 2020 – which have been disproven by recounts and rejected in court cases – continue to hold sway in the GOP. Republican voters by 64%-26% say they would vote for a candidate who questions the legitimacy of Biden’s election.

“I’m not a denier of the election, but I think there was some stuff pulled by Democrats,” said Larry Jackson, 79, a retired state highway worker from Lakewood, Colorado. A Republican, he voted for Trump in 2020. “The Republicans couldn’t prove that it was, you know, undercover stuff that they did, but I believe there was some kind of something pulled in the election.”

A third of political independents also would vote for election deniers, 33%-53%. 

Election coming:As midterms loom, what’s shaping undecided voters’ opinions in 5 charts

Absentee and mail votes:You’ve got mail voting? Donald Trump and other election deniers target mail balloting system

Democrats by a wide margin say they wouldn’t, 84%-11%.

Concern about the future of America’s democracy is bipartisan. An overwhelming 85% of Americans say they are very or somewhat worried about democracy’s future; just 14% say they aren’t particularly worried.

Those who say they are “very worried” include 67% of Republicans, 55% of Democrats and 51% of independents. 

But the nature of those concerns differ and sometimes conflict. In follow-up phone interviews with those who were surveyed, Republicans tended to express concern about Democrats being able to cast fraudulent ballots. Democrats tended to express concern about results being misrepresented or overturned by Republican officials responsible for counting them.

Election deniers:Hundreds of elections deniers running for office nationwide in 2022 pose ‘major threat’ to U.S. democracy

Across the nation, an unsettled feeling 

Concern about the legitimacy of the election process has contributed to an unsettled feeling across the United States. By 66%-24%, Americans say the country is on the wrong track.

In response to an open-ended question asking for one word that describes the state of the country today, 20% volunteered “chaotic/disastrous/messy.” Another 16% said “divided/confused/turmoil.” Four percent said “failing democracy/decline.”

Inflation and abortion rights are major concerns for Jacquie Welker, 40, an insurance agent from Seattle and a Democrat who voted for Biden. “I think those will take care of themselves in time, but my primary focus in this election is maintaining our democracy,” she said. “That would be my number one concern.”