Pennsylvania elections

Lehigh County election volunteers count votes on Nov. 5, 2020.

ALLENTOWN (TNS) — As Pennsylvania is expected to loom large in upcoming midterm elections, its residents who voted in the 2020 election are still sharply divided over how fairly that election was conducted and how trustworthy the process is, according to a poll conducted by Muhlenberg College and Keep Our Republic.

“It’s very important to get a sense of where voter trust and sentiments are, regarding how we vote and [the accuracy of tallying those votes] a year out from the controversies that developed during and after the 2020 election,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “It’s needed when Pennsylvania is more important than ever on the national landscape.”

The survey found Republican voters indicated less trust in all electoral processes and state institutions than Democrats and independents. This lower trust level among GOP members extends to Republican-controlled institutions, such as the state Legislature, and voting processes, such as electronic voting machines used by most Republican voters in 2020.

According to the poll:

  • Six in 10 voters said the election was conducted fairly, while 4 in 10 said it wasn’t, with 24% not confident at all that it was fair.
  • A 63% majority disagree that the state legislature should be able to overturn results certified by state and local election officials, with almost 46% “strongly” disagreeing with this.
  • About 2 out of 3 voters “strongly” or “somewhat” trust county officials to provide safe, secure, accurate elections, while 57% trust the state Supreme Court, 49% trust the Legislature and 45% trust Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.
  • A 57% majority of Democratic voters view voter suppression as the biggest threat to a safe, secure, accurate election in 2022. Among Republicans, 37% said voter fraud is the main threat, and 31% pointed to the use of mail ballots.
  • About 4 in 10 voters, including 7 in 10 Republicans, are “very” or “somewhat” confident of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Only 15% of Democrats believe there was widespread fraud in the election.
  • About 56% of all voters — and 80% of Democrats — believe the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol building was an insurrection against the government. That number plummets among Republicans, 63% of whom disagreed.

“There have been a lot of national surveys that have looked at voter sentiment regarding the 2020 election outcome and process, but not nearly as much in Pennsylvania,” Borick said. “These findings give an updated picture of the Pennsylvania electorate as we move into a pivotal election year with lots of national attention on Pennsylvania in particular, with open Senate and Governor races in the state.”

This is the first poll Muhlenberg has conducted with Keep Our Republic, a nonpartisan civic action organization dedicated to protecting a republic of laws and strengthening the checks and balances of the democratic system.

“In the broader context of concerns about the fairness of the presidential election process, we are now seeing some new highly controversial issues, such as the asserted veto power of state legislatures, coming into play,” Keep Our Republic co-founder Mark Medish said.

“What is perhaps most striking about our poll findings is that a clear majority of voters disapprove of the idea of a state legislature trying to overturn election results after certification of those results by the state officials charged with the responsibility,” Medish said. “This question of a state legislature potentially inserting itself to overrule the vote of the people is quite novel and thus one of the things that distinguishes this poll.”

The poll was based on a telephone survey Dec. 1-13 of 506 people who voted in the 2020 general election in Pennsylvania. Its margin of error is +/- 5% at a 95% level of confidence.

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