Fewer than One-Third of Americans Believe November Elections Will be Honest and Open, Says New Poll

24 Sep, 2020

September 24, 2020

Contact: Alaina Monismith
Communications and Marketing Manager
Public Affairs Council

Fewer than One-Third of Americans Believe November Elections
Will be Honest and Open, Says New Poll

Democrats and Independents more worried about election integrity than Republicans

Washington, D.C. – A new Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll finds that with just weeks to go before Election Day, most Americans have doubts about the fairness of the voting process. The public is also critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and believes the private sector has done a better job of balancing safety concerns with the need to re-open the economy.

The survey of 2,199 adults, conducted August 19-21, 2020, also explores attitudes about racism in America, trusted sources of political news and public support for business regulation.

Americans worried about integrity of 2020 elections

  • Only 29% of Americans have faith that the elections will be run in an honest and open way.
  • Twenty-one (21%) believe the elections will be neither honest nor open, and 18% think they will be open to everyone with a right to vote but won’t be run in an honest way. An additional 14% have the opposite concern — that elections will be honest but not adequately open.
  • Republicans are not as worried about the integrity of the elections, with 45% saying they are concerned about honesty, openness or both.
  • Election concerns are higher for Democrats (61%) and Independents (51%).

“We’ve never seen an American election with so much doubt about whether the results will reflect the will of the voters,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “The question is whether these concerns produce record turnout or discourage infrequent voters from casting their ballots.”

Public critical of federal government handling of pandemic

  • Four in 10 (41%) Americans say the federal government has done a poor job balancing health and safety concerns with the need to re-open the economy and another 24% say it has done just a fair job. Only 27% rate the feds’ performance as good or excellent.
  • The federal government’s worst scores come from young voters (18-34) and older voters (65 and up) with 68% of both groups rating its responses as fair or poor.
  • Forty five percent (45%) of all Americans say the feds’ efforts to re-open the economy are moving too fast while only 26% say they are moving too slow.
  • Republicans are split on Washington’s performance in dealing with the pandemic. While 49% give the feds a score of good or excellent in balancing safety and the economy, 45% rate them fair or poor. Thirty percent (30%) of GOP voters say the economy is re-opening too fast and 30% say it is re-opening too slow.

Most Americans view racism as serious problem and want business to be part of solution

  • Three-out-of-four Americans (74%) believe racism is a serious problem in the U.S., the same percentage as when the Public Affairs Council last surveyed opinions about racism in 2016.
  • While 68% of Democrats consider racism a very serious problem, only 22% of Republicans and 44% of Independents agree.
  • Major companies have work to do to show their commitment to combatting racism. Just 28% of Americans think major companies are playing a positive role in reducing racism. Only 14% say major companies are playing a negative role, an improvement from 24% in 2016.
  • More than half of the public (51%) say they would think more favorably of major companies that take steps to prevent racism.

Other notable findings

  • Friends and family are the most trusted source of political news at 72%, up from 67% last year. The news media and businesses are tied for second place at 42% each.
  • The most preferred method for financing political campaigns is for candidates to spend their own money (70% approval). Individual contributions also rank high at 67% approval. Public support for political action committees (PACs) has risen by 4 percentage points to 55%. Super PACs have taken a dip, however, with only 40% approving of them.
  • Americans are becoming increasingly pro-regulation. More people (32%) believe government regulation of business is “necessary to protect the public interest” than believe “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good” (22%). Last year 28% were pro-regulation while 23% were anti-regulation.
  • Almost half (47%) have at least some trust in major companies, up from 44% in 2019. Yet the public believes corporate CEOs lack trustworthiness. Only 7% think big business leaders have high standards for honesty and ethics while 47% believe those standards are low.

View the full Pulse survey findings at pac.org/pulse.

About the Public Affairs Council

Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies, nonprofits and universities with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at pac.org.