November 01, 2022
Research from Susquehanna University’s Department of Political Science takes a closer look at opinions surrounding the veracity of the 2020 presidential election and whether a voter’s geographic location plays a role.
Nick Clark, chair and professor of political science, and Rolfe Peterson, associate professor of political science, are looking into why certain Republicans believe the election was stolen while party members reject the claim.
“Not all Republicans believe the election was stolen,” Clark said. “Our research focuses on Republicans and on the effects of the broader political environment in reinforcing a false impression that a losing candidate may have actually won an election.”
Using data gathered by the Voter Study Group:
- 26% indicated they believed President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
- 24% indicated not conceding the election was very or somewhat appropriate.
- 20% indicated assigning new Electoral College electors was very or somewhat appropriate.
- 26% indicated they would not accept Joe Biden as president.
Survey data also included the state and congressional district of each respondent. Using that data, Clark and Peterson matched each respondent with the margin between Biden and Trump in each congressional district and the population density of each district.
“These variables allow us to measure the potential impact of a voter’s geographic environment and the likelihood that respondents may base opinions on flawed inferences based on their immediate environment,” Peterson said.
Their research found that the higher Trump’s margin of victory in the respondent’s congressional district, the more likely they were and continue to believe Trump won the entire election.
“People make false inferences all the time based on what’s around them,” Clark said. “Our research shows that if you live in a noncompetitive district — one in which you see nine Trump signs for every one Biden sign — it gives you the impression Trump should have walked away with the election. But those noncompetitive districts are not representative of the state or the country.”
Clark and Peterson’s research, which is still ongoing and not yet submitted for publication, points out that partisanship itself does not account for acceptance of the stolen election narrative given the one-third of Republican voters who reject it. They also attribute belief in widespread voter fraud to elite media and political figures casting doubt on the country’s democratic foundation and voters creating for themselves an environment — from their media choices, to where they live and work — that consistently reinforces their own beliefs with little to no challenge.
“It should be noted that higher levels of education have a negative effect on the belief and perception of voter fraud at all levels,” Clark said.