In the new poll, 56% of respondents said they have little or no confidence that US elections reflect the will of the people, up from 52% who felt that way in September and 40% in January 2021. Nearly three quarters of Republicans were now skeptical about the representativeness of the elections (74%), as were 59% of independents and only a third of Democrats (32%). The results reflected a significant decline in trust over the past year, both among independents (45% lacked confidence in January 2021) and Democrats (9% felt this way a year ago).
At the same time, there has been a change in partisan dynamics that raises concerns about the possibility of a future canceled election. While the 50% overall who considered such a prospect at least somewhat likely were similar to the 51% who thought so in September, Democrats were now more likely to see a canceled election in the future than Republicans. In the new poll, 56% of Democrats considered it likely compared to 48% of Republicans. In September, 57% of Republicans thought it was likely while only 49% of Democrats agreed.
More broadly, fewer say US democracy is under attack than at the end of last summer (52% now vs. 56% in September), and the share who said the attack on the US Capitol January 6, 2021 represented a crisis for democracy was 28%, up from 36% shortly after last year’s attack.
The poll findings come as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued new subpoenas to key members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle as it investigates. on the origins of the attack.
Most Americans viewed the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a problem for democracy (28% said it was a crisis, 37% a major problem, and 20% called it a minor issue), and 54% said not enough was done to penalize those who rioted on Capitol Hill.
Republicans in particular, however, have changed their minds about the attack over the past year. While 15% of Republicans said in January 2021 that the Capitol storming was not a problem, 27% now think so. Similarly, while a year ago 38% of Republicans said enough had been done to penalize rioters, 71% now think so.
A plurality of all Americans saw the work of the select committee as a fair attempt to determine what happened on January 6 (44%), while about a third saw it as a one-sided effort to blame Trump (36 %) and 20% said they hadn’t heard enough to say. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) said it was a fair inquiry, while two-thirds of Republicans (67%) called it a one-sided effort to blame Trump.
Still, those who said the Jan. 6 attack was a problem for democracy weren’t very likely to see the work of the select committee as a way to help protect American democracy. Overall, 47% said the attack was a problem and the panel’s work was unlikely to result in changes that would help protect democracy, while 37% said protective changes were the likely outcome.
Beyond the overall partisan divide around these issues, the poll found that those most concerned about the January 6 attack or the health of democracy in general were the most ideological supporters, suggesting that the issues may not become turning points for the upcoming midterm elections.
Perceptions of the January 6 attack as a crisis for democracy were concentrated among liberal Democrats, 62% of whom felt this, compared to 37% of moderate or conservative Democrats, 13% of moderate or liberal Republicans and 11% of conservative Republicans. And views that democracy itself was under attack were also strongest among conservative Republicans (72%) compared to 53% of moderate or liberal Republicans, 40% of moderate or conservative Democrats and 57% of liberal Democrats.
Looking at the 2020 election result, little has changed in how Americans viewed Joe Biden’s victory. While there was no evidence of widespread fraud or vote tampering, 37% said they believed Biden had not legitimately won enough votes to be president. More than 1 in 5, or 22%, said there was strong evidence that Biden did not win enough votes, even though such evidence does not exist. Among Republicans, 70% said Biden’s victory was not legitimate, and nearly half, 45%, mistakenly thought there was strong evidence for that.