Democratic North Carolina state Sen. Dan Blue sent out a tweet on December 6 claiming the public trust in U.S. elections is at an all-time low following voting misconduct in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
Preliminary results of a House race showed Republican nominee Mark Harris with a 905-vote edge over Democratic opponent Dan McCready.
However, Harris’ win isn’t certified by the election board because of an investigation into a high volume of mail-in absentee ballots. Canvassers collected absentee ballots directly from residents for Harris, which is a violation of North Carolina law.
Has the public’s confidence in the election process truly hit an all-time low?
In Blue’s tweet, he claims the public trust in our election system is at an all-time low and references this controversial House race specifically.
“Public trust in our election system is at an all-time low,” Blue, of Raleigh, tweeted Dec. 6. “[The] #ncga needs to take the first steps in restoring public trust and delay further changes to voting requirements or to the NC Bd. of Elections until investigation complete and remedy is ordered.”
Public trust in our election system is at an all-time low. #ncga needs to take the first steps in restoring public trust and delay further changes to voting requirements or to the NC Bd. of Elections until investigation complete and remedy is ordered. #ncpol https://t.co/XGqyoYaibn
— Dan Blue (@DanBlueNC) December 6, 2018
According to Politifact, there is limited national data to analyze trust in elections and zero statistics specific to North Carolina. However, we were able to find studies showcasing measurements of confidence from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab.
In its study, it asked questions such as, “How confident are you that your vote in the general election will be as you intend?” or “How confident are you that votes in (in your county/in your state/nationwide) will be counted as voters intend?”
The participants’ response categories ranged from very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, not at all confident, and don’t know. Overall, voters’ confidence levels were greater after the election across the board, according to a module from the 2016 general election.
For example, 40 percent of voters said they were very confident before the election, while it jumped up to 59 percent after the election. Also, in pre-election surveys, the confidence was largest (35 percent) when the questions targeted specific communities closer to them. In contrast, the percentage of voters who were very confident dropped to 27 percent and 19 percent when questioned about the state and nation, respectively.
In an article published in 2017, the Pew Research Center mentioned the public’s trust level as near historic lows and stated that only 18 percent of Americans at the time trust the government. An NPR/Marist poll conducted in September showed that nearly two in five American voters believe the election process is unfair and that roughly 50 percent of respondents believed their vote would be counted correctly.
Some experts gave their overall perspective on voter confidence. Election researcher Natalie Adona told Politifact:
“The public’s confidence in vote counts remains high with respect to their own ballots. However, people express less confidence when it comes to vote counts across the nation. Since the 2000 election — when the voter confidence question started being asked regularly on surveys—voter confidence in national vote counts has decreased, while confidence in one’s own vote being counted remains steady.”
Lauren Prather, an assistant professor at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, conducted her own research and concluded that confidence has dropped since 2006. According to Politifact, she responded to Blue’s claim by saying, “I’m not confident that we have data that supports that.”
Fact or Fiction?
Blue’s claim that public trust in our election system is at an all-time low is weak due to an overall lack of consistent data. Some studies do support his claim of declining trust in our election system, but they present incomplete historical evidence. This claim is rated as false.