Poll: One-third of Pa. voters doubt 2020 election results

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Hundreds wait in line to vote at Northeastern Middle School, Tuesday, November 3, 2020
John A. Pavoncello photo

One in three Pennsylvania voters doubts the legitimacy of the state's 2020 presidential election results, according to a poll by Muhlenberg College.

A majority of Republican voters in Pennsylvania continues to believe baseless claims, espoused by former President Donald Trump, that fraud plagued November's election. And that sentiment persists as GOP state lawmakers continue to hold hearings about the election results and call for rollbacks to the state's mail-in voting system.   

In December, researchers at Muhlenberg College surveyed 406 Pennsylvanians who voted in the 2020 election. The results found a significant percentage of voters questioned the state's results. 

"That's just not normal," said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. 

The poll found that 87% of mail-in voters were somewhat or very confident that Pennsylvania's election was fair. A vast majority of mail-in voters supported President Joe Biden, a Democrat, who won Pennsylvania and the White House.

Just 22% of in-person voters, who significantly favored Trump in November, had confidence in the results. 

About 59% of Republican voters believe voter fraud was the biggest threat to the 2020 election, while 46% of Democratic voters believe voter suppression was the biggest threat. 

Borick said the survey did not ask participants where they got the information that backed up their beliefs. 

Trump spent months in the lead-up to November's election falsely claiming that mail-in voting was "rigged." He and his allies bombarded Pennsylvania and several other swing states with baseless claims that the election was "stolen" following the election, even as dozens of state and federal courts found no evidence of fraud.

The falsehoods culminated Jan. 6 in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, where rioters attempted to stop Congress from certifying Biden's victory. Five people, including one Capitol Police officer, died during the assault.

While the poll found a strong correlation between beliefs and the voters' political affiliation in the results, Borick said there was also a correlation in voters' education level. About 65% of participants with a college degree believe Pennsylvania's election results were accurate, while only 37% of participants without a degree were just as confident. 

More:OP-ED: Our democracy demands an investment in civic education

Borick said the trend of non-college-educated voters leaning Republican started decades ago but has increased in the past four years to become a defining feature in politics. 

"That's really kicked into gear during the Trump presidency," Borick said. 

The poll results paint a challenging picture for state legislators, who are now considering ways to improve Pennsylvania's elections. Democratic lawmakers hope to implement automatic voter registration and send mail ballots to all registered voters, while some Republicans are looking to limit mail-in voting options. 

More:Top Pa. election official calls for end to ‘lies’ as GOP launches 2020 hearings

That divide is reflected in the Muhlenberg poll. According to the poll, 47% of voters agree Pennsylvania should limit mail-in voting in future elections, while 51% of voters disagree with limiting mail-in voting. 

"That's gonna be the battle in Harrisburg," Borick said.