During this 2014 midterm election season, mainstream and social media have inundated voters with tales of schemes and skulduggery. Whatever the result of Tuesday’s election, many will believe that the process was rigged, the outcome is fraudulent, and they were cheated. The pattern of conspiracy theories is unfortunate but familiar. How pervasive is the belief that American elections will be swayed by improper means? Very. In 2012 we conducted surveys to gauge what Americans thought about the integrity of the system. Just before the election, we asked a national sample of respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. About 50% said fraud would have been very or somewhat likely. When asked if someone was using “dirty tricks” in the election, about 85% believed that some candidate, campaign or political group was. These sentiments are not driven by members of one party or the other: Near equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats (between 40% and 50%) said fraud would be very or somewhat likely. Each side believes that if they lose, cheating is to blame, and they believe it about equally. Nobody likes losing, but it appears hard for about half the country to accept that they lost fair and square.
Such beliefs can have serious consequences. The Democrats faced close and bitter defeats in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Following the resolution of the 2000 presidential election, about a third of the country (mostly Democrats) believed the election of George W. Bush was fraudulent. And even years after the fact, almost 40% of Democrats believe that fraud swung the outcome in Ohio, the decisive state in 2004.
Nobody likes losing, but it appears hard for about half the country to accept that they lost fair and square.
Responding to the belief that their voters had been suppressed in 2000 and 2004, Democrats made herculean efforts at voter registration and mobilization in 2008 and 2012. These efforts contributed to the successful election and reelection campaigns of Barack Obama. Republicans saw these efforts as attempts to subvert the system and stuff ballot boxes. As a result, Republican governors and state legislatures instituted tougher restrictions on voting, including shortened early voting times and voter identification requirements.
Full Article: Election conspiracy theories, an American staple – LA Times.