Just before supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he delivered remarks to them claiming the presidential election had been “stolen” and “rigged.” Trump had begun casting doubt on the integrity of the election before the voting began, and since Nov. 3 that message had intensified into numerous lawsuits alleging outright fraud and theft.
Republicans who relied heavily on Trump and his campaign for news were significantly more concerned than other Republicans about the possibility of election fraud heading into the election and more convinced that it had actually occurred in the weeks that followed. But not all Republicans have said they were paying the same amount of attention to Trump’s messages.
Pew Research Center’s American News Pathways project examined, among other topics, differences between Republicans who said in September that Trump and his campaign were a major source of election news for them (27% of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents) and those who said he was a minor source or not a source at all (72% of Republicans and GOP leaners).
To assess the impact of news provided by President Donald Trump and his campaign on Republicans’ perceptions of voter fraud allegations, we analyzed surveys conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 7, Nov. 12-17 and Nov. 18-29, 2020. The August-September survey included 9,220 U.S. adults and the mid-November survey included 11,818 U.S. adults, while the late November survey interviewed 12,648 U.S. adults. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodologies:
Well before Election Day, Republicans turning to Trump for election news were already hearing more about the possibility of mail-in ballot fraud than other Republicans, an allegation that Trump and his campaign consistently raised. As of early September, 75% of Republicans who relied on the president as a major news source said they had heard “a lot” about how increased mail-in voting could affect the election. That compares with 57% of other Republicans.
In that same survey, a solid majority of Republicans who use Trump as a major news source (61%) said that in the past fraud related to voting by mail has been a major problem. That number fell to 36% among Republicans who did not rely on Trump for information.
Following the election, Republicans who turned to Trump for news expressed more skepticism than other Republicans about the integrity of absentee or mail-in ballots.
Only 13% of Republicans who relied on Trump were very or somewhat confident that absentee or mail-in votes were counted properly, compared with 31% of the Republicans who were not in the Trump group. And while 37% of those who did not use Trump as a major source were not at all confident about the mail-in vote tally, that number swelled to 60% among Republicans who relied on Trump and his campaign for information. (These gaps persist even when accounting for conservative ideology and feelings toward Trump.)
The gap narrowed when it came to confidence about in-person voting at polling places. Indeed, 21% of Republicans who turned to Trump for election news said they were not at all confident those votes were counted as voters intended, roughly twice that of other Republicans (11%).
By late November, with Trump and his allies falsely claiming widespread fraud – beyond just mail-in ballots – and trying multiple paths to overturn the election results, slightly more than half of Republicans (54%) who did not rely on Trump for campaign news said the allegations of voter fraud in the presidential election were getting too little attention. But among those who relied on Trump and his campaign for information, 72% said there had been too little attention to those allegations.