A year ago at this time, polls showed far too many Republican voters embracing anti-election conspiracy theories, believing Donald Trump's Big Lie, and questioning the legitimacy of Joe Biden's presidency. As 2022 gets underway, very little has changed.
A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that a majority of GOP voters continue to believe Biden wasn't legitimately elected to the White House, reality notwithstanding, while an even larger majority of Republican voters believe the Jan. 6 rioters "went too far, but they had a point."
NPR ran a related report yesterday on its latest national NPR/Ipsos survey.
... Two-thirds of GOP respondents agree with the verifiably false claim that "voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election" — a key pillar of the "Big Lie" that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Fewer than half of Republicans say they are willing to accept the results of the 2020 election — a number that has remained virtually unchanged since we asked the same question last January.
NPR's report added, "The poll found that support for false claims about election fraud and the Jan. 6 attack have been remarkably stable over time."
And that's one of the dimensions of this that stands out most for me. Circling back to our recent coverage, I initially hoped that reality would set in gradually over time. In fact, it seemed plausible to think that some of the early polling on this — during the presidential transition period, for example — was driven by more of an emotional reaction than a meaningful assessment of the facts. Many GOP voters were led to believe that Trump would win, so perhaps their initial rejection of Biden's victory was a combination of reflexive surprise and anger.
In the same vein, as the nation's focus shifted to post-inaugural governance, it seemed possible, if not likely, that voters would accept reality in greater numbers as post-election drama faded from view — especially as recounts, audits, and independent reviews made it painfully obvious that the Republicans' anti-election conspiracy theories were baseless.
And yet, here we are.
Why should anyone care? In part because governing is already difficult, and the challenges become more acute when a major political party lives in a weird fantasyland. But also because of the degree to which the Trumpian party's alternate reality can be weaponized by those eager to suppress Americans' voting rights — and those willing to commit literal acts of violence.
Looking ahead, solutions are elusive. 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 its success undermines our entire system of government.