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Stolen Elections & Extreme Mass Partisanship: Views from the 2018 US Midterms

Thu, August 29, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Hilton, Tenleytown East

Abstract

Democracy depends on a belief in fair elections, especially among losers whose consent the system demands. The alternative is a legitimacy crisis that threatens disobedience, disunion, and partisan violence. How do U.S. attitudes about election fairness relate to attitudes about these extreme political acts? More urgent, how do Americans respond to increasingly loud accusations of election fraud made by national leaders? We answer these questions with observational and experimental evidence from a YouGov panel survey before and after the 2018 midterm elections. In the pre-election wave, we test how expectations of electoral fairness affect pre-election views toward extreme partisan attitudes and actions. Next, we test how pre-/post- changes in electoral fairness perceptions relate to extreme partisanship, particularly in light of wins and losses relative to pre-election expectations. Finally, we test dynamic responsiveness to experimental reminders of real post-election fraud claims circulating in both parties while the survey was in the field. The results provide benchmarks for current public attitudes about elections and violence, and they test public reactivity to leaders who promote electoral conspiracies, real or imagined. We conclude by discussing the implications for public responses to strident rhetoric in upcoming elections.

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