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Few Americans Believe 2024 Elections Will Be ‘Honest and Open’

Few Americans Believe 2024 Elections Will Be ‘Honest and Open’

October 2023

Only 37% of Americans believe the 2024 elections will be both “honest and open” to rightful voters, while 43% have serious doubts about their honesty, openness or both. Republicans and independents are far more skeptical than Democrats about the legitimacy of the upcoming elections, and nearly two-thirds of the public believe disinformation from the news media and social media will affect the outcome of the voting.

These findings are among others from the Council’s 2023 Public Affairs Pulse Survey, conducted Sept. 1-3 by Morning Consult, to provide an in-depth look at public opinion on issues intersecting business, government and American society, with an emphasis on the integrity of the elections.

The results are noteworthy for a number of reasons. “Historically, of the 59 presidential elections held since 1788, the results of the vast majority have not been controversial or tainted by allegations of corruption,” says Council President Doug Pinkham. “But in 2020, more than half of Americans (53%) who participated in that year’s Pulse survey said they expected the upcoming vote to be dishonest, not accessible to all eligible voters or both. That year, with Donald Trump as president, only 29% of the public said they thought the elections would meet proper standards of integrity — suspicions that Trump himself actively encouraged. Now, three years later, things aren’t much more encouraging, with such large percentages of Americans expressing doubts about the integrity of the November elections.”

Democrats and Republicans, not surprisingly, have different views of how fair the elections will be. Democrats, who were more distrustful than their Republican counterparts before the 2020 elections, now express more confidence in the honesty and integrity of the upcoming elections. Fifty percent (50%) of Democrats say the elections will be both honest and open to all voters, while only 35% of Republicans and 24% of independents share this view.

“A closer look reveals even more interesting findings,” Pinkham says. “Democrats are somewhat worried about whether next year’s elections will be sufficiently open, while Republicans express more concern about whether they will be conducted honestly. Across the political spectrum, men (42%) are much more likely than women (32%) to trust the elections will be both honest and open.”

Prevalence of Disinformation

Why are Americans so worried about the legitimacy of the balloting? A major reason is the prevalence of disinformation, which 63% of the public believes will be a factor in the outcome of the 2024 elections. The most likely source of these falsehoods is expected to be social media (42%) and the news media (40%). Despite proof that Russia and China have attempted to influence the outcome of other elections, only 11% of Americans consider foreign governments to be a main source of this disinformation.

The cohort most active on social media — GenZers, born between 1997 and 2012— also constitute the age group most concerned about the threat of social media to corrupt our elections, with 55% of that generation expecting it to be a main source of disinformation. Just 43% of baby boomers, 36% of Gen Xers and 42% of Millennials are as concerned about social media’s potential role in creating and spreading disinformation. (Boomers, roughly speaking, were born between 1946 and 1964, Gen Xers from 1965 to 1980, and Millennials from 1981 to 1996.)

Members of the GOP are more concerned than Democrats or independents about the news media as a source of disinformation, with 52% of Republicans considering it as a main source of deliberately misleading assertions. Only 25% of Democrats and 48% of independents express similar concerns.

Whom Do You Trust?

With such widespread skepticism about media’s trustworthiness, it might come as no surprise that Americans still trust “friends and family” as a source of political news and information. As in past years, friends and family were the highest of 11 possible sources, at 68% — a percentage that dropped from 71% last year.

Coming in second as a trustworthy source of political news and information are businesses, just as last year’s Pulse survey found. Forty-three percent (43%) of those surveyed in 2023 say they trust information from businesses, with a slightly lower percentage (42%) saying they do not. The news media ranked somewhat lower, with 41% saying they trust the news media but 47% saying they don’t find it trustworthy.

The least trustworthy as a source of news and information “are groups spending millions of dollars to persuade voters to support or oppose candidates for office,” Pinkham says. Only 24% say they trust political information from the candidates’ campaigns, and 60% say they place little or no trust in these candidates and what their organizations say. Super PACs and other such groups that are officially unaffiliated with a candidate’s campaign do even worse, with only 21% trusting them and 58% saying they distrust them.

Among other findings:

  • 50% of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of major companies, which compares to last year’s 51% — a difference within the poll’s 2-percentage-point margin of error. A nearly identical share of the public trusts major companies to behave ethically (51% this year, compared with 50% in 2022).
  • 79% express a favorable view of small business, a decline from last year’s score of 85%.
  • Companies receive high marks for providing useful products and services (60%), serving their customers (53%), creating jobs (50%), and with a slightly lower score (47%) for serving stockholders.
  • The Republican Party (59%) continues to be viewed as more pro-business than the Democrats (43%). In fact, 35% of Americans think the GOP is “very pro-business,” compared with only 17% who believe that description fits the Democratic Party.

“What is striking — maybe even ironic — in the results of this year’s Pulse Survey is that Democrats who express less confidence in what we think of as ‘big business’ nevertheless support corporate efforts to engage politically on social issues and Republicans — members of what we used to think of as ‘the party of business’ — oppose such engagement,” Pinkham says.

Social Issue Engagement

Almost three-quarters (72%) of Democrats say major companies should be involved in racial discrimination issues, but only 51% of Republicans express this opinion. This spread of 21 points was identical for whether corporations should involve themselves in efforts to end discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation and even greater (31 points) when it comes to gender identity discrimination. There were comparably large differences regarding involvement in voting rights, human rights, access to quality education, improving the environment, affordable housing and alleviating hunger.

The survey of 2,219 American adults was taken online, with the data weighted to approximate a target sample based on age, gender, race, educational attainment, region, gender by age, and race by educational attainment. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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