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Data shows GOP voters skeptical of 'bedrock principle of democracy'

Republican voters have been told not to trust democracy or epistemology. Several new polls make clear the campaign is working painfully well.

It was several weeks ago when Donald Trump started telling Virginians that this year's elections in the commonwealth might be illegitimate. The former president focused particular attention on the commonwealth's competitive gubernatorial race. "You have a close race in Virginia," the Republican told a conservative radio host, "but it's not close if they cheat."

As today's Election Day drew closer, Trump escalated the rhetoric. Yesterday morning, he said in a written statement, "I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia's elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on." Hours later, the former president issued a related statement, lamenting "the margin of fraud" in the election that has not yet happened.

To the extent that reality still has meaning, Trump's claims were, and are, baseless. He pointed to no evidence to substantiate the allegations because no such evidence exists. Literally no one has pointed to irregularities in Virginia's balloting.

But the point of the lies is not to alert the public to imagined flaws in an electoral system. Rather, the point is to preemptively delegitimize possible Democratic victories. For the former president, if Republicans fall short, it's necessarily proof that there was fraud. If Republicans win, it's proof that voters overcame a rigged system.

Either way, Trump wants the public to believe that our democracy is not to be trusted. Just as importantly, his efforts to undermine public confidence in our system appear to be working. NBC News reported late yesterday on the results of the network's latest national survey:

Two-thirds of all registered voters, 66 percent, say they are confident their vote will be counted accurately, down from 85 percent in October 2020. And 29 percent say they are not confident that their vote will be counted accurately in the future, compared to 11 percent who said the same a year ago.

The shift, of course, is driven largely by Republican voters who've fallen for the scam. A year ago, 84 percent of Republicans said they were confident in the vote count. Now, that number has plummeted to 41 percent. Meanwhile, only about one in five GOP voters believe President Joe Biden was elected legitimately — an utterly bonkers problem that's grown progressively worse over the course of the year.

The latest polling report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) pointed in the same direction. Reflecting on the results, pollster Robert Jones said, "I'm not an alarmist by nature, but I'm deeply disturbed by these numbers. I think that we really have to take them seriously as a threat to democracy."

A new national NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll produced similar findings, with 75 percent of Republican voters embracing Trump's Big Lie as if it were true. Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, nearly two-thirds of GOP voters said they won't trust the results if their preferred candidate loses.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, added, "When looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, it is remarkable that a bedrock principle of democracy — that losing candidates and their supporters accept the results — is not held by nearly two in three Republicans who say they will question the results if their candidate does not win."

It's a matter of trust. Republican voters have been told not to trust election results. Or election administrators. Or election lawyers. Or independent news organizations. Or political scientists. Or the courts. Rather, they've been told to trust easily discredited nonsense from a failed and corrupt former president, and conservative media outlets that profit from his propaganda.

It's a campaign against democracy and epistemology, and it's working painfully well.