In a poll conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, registered California voters expressed distrust in the election process and a fear of violence should election results be disputed.
The Berkeley IGS Poll surveyed 6,686 registered voters from California and was administered via email from Oct. 16 to Oct. 21, according to poll results. Respondents answered questions about their opinions on the fairness of this year’s presidential election and their confidence in the voting process.
According to the poll results, 40% of those surveyed were skeptical that the election would be conducted fairly and openly.
“There’s so much worry and concern about the integrity of the voting process, which is fundamental to our democracy,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. “You have to have people trust the democratic system in order for it to work properly. From this election, I think that degree of trust has been diminished.”
The poll results revealed that many of the voters surveyed were less confident about mail-in ballots being counted than they were about in-person votes. These concerns were expressed by 78% of voters who support President Donald Trump and 32% of voters who support Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Eric Schickler, co-director of IGS, noted that COVID-19 has contributed to this “battle over the voting process,” as many Republicans recommended voting in person while many Democrats encouraged absentee voting as a safe alternative.
Another significant finding of the poll was that 87% of surveyed voters said they were worried that Americans would not respect the election’s outcome. According to Schickler, these results suggest that the United States’ political system is “deeply frayed.”
“This is a foundational democratic norm that no matter who wins, the outcome will be seen as broadly legitimate,” Schickler said. “This is one area where both Democrats and Republicans express a lot of concern and share that worry about others respecting the outcome.”
The poll also found that 88% of those surveyed believed violence would likely occur if the election’s outcome was disputed, with 44% saying violence could be very likely. DiCamillo said these results were “troubling” and pointed to a high level of tension and uncertainty among voters.
DiCamillo added that there is “a high degree of emotional attachment” to each candidate among both Trump and Biden voters. According to Schickler, the poll’s results are “a sign of intense polarization” between the two parties.
“A really close election is a stress test for a political system,” Schickler said. “A political system in good shape can have a really close election and will be OK, whereas today with that same kind of scenario, it’s less clear what would happen.”