October 27, 2016

As Election Nears, Voters Divided Over Democracy and ‘Respect’

5. Confidence in election, views of U.S. democracy

Overall, a majority of voters say they have a great deal (32%) or fair amount (32%) of confidence that the presidential election will be open and fair. About one-in-three (35%) say they have little or no confidence the election will be fair and open.

Among Trump supporters, however, most (56%) say they have little or no confidence the election will be fair, while 43% have at least a fair amount of confidence.

Clinton supporters are overwhelmingly confident the election will be fair. Fully 88% of Clinton voters express this view, including 58% who are very confident the election will be fair and open. Among Trump supporters, just 8% have an equally high degree of confidence this will occur.

Voters who support Trump strongly are especially likely to have doubts the election will be fair and open. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say they have little or no confidence the election will be fair, while just 36% have at least a fair amount of confidence in this. Among those who back Trump less strongly, about half (48%) doubt the election will be fair and open. Among Clinton supporters, large majorities of those who support her strongly (92%) and less strongly (84%) express confidence in a fair election.

Views of candidates’ respect for democratic institutions

Most voters (63%) say Clinton has a great deal or fair amount of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and traditions. Less than half (43%) of voters say the same about Trump.

While a large majority of Trump voters (86%) say he respects U.S. democratic traditions, just 41% say he has a great deal of respect for these traditions. Among Clinton supporters, 65% say their candidate has a great deal of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and traditions.

There also are differences in how Trump and Clinton supporters view the opponent’s level of respect for democratic institutions. About a quarter of Trump supporters (27%) say Clinton has at least a fair amount of respect for these institutions, more than double the share of Clinton supporters who say that about Trump (11%).

What is important for a strong democracy?

When it comes to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States, large majorities of voters agree on the importance of a range of elements. Almost all voters (90%) say that open and fair elections are very important to maintaining a strong democracy. Wide majorities also agree that it is very important that people have the right to non-violent protest and to protect the rights of people with unpopular views (78% and 77% respectively).

Somewhat smaller majorities think it is very important for those who lose elections to recognize the legitimacy of the winners (65%), and for news organizations to be free to criticize political leaders (61%).

Supporters of both major-party candidates agree that open and fair elections are very important to maintaining a strong democracy: 93% of voters who support Clinton say this, as do 91% of voters who support Trump.

There are modest differences between Trump and Clinton supporters in views of the importance of protecting the rights of people with unpopular views and ensuring the right to non-violent protest – though majorities of both groups say each is very important

Overall, 82% of Clinton voters and 71% of Trump voters say it is very important to a strong democracy to protect the rights of those with unpopular views. Clinton supporters are 17 points more likely than Trump supporters to say it is very important to ensure that people have the right to non-violent protest (86% vs. 69%).

Large majorities of Clinton supporters also say it is very important that the losers of elections recognize the legitimacy of the winners (83%) and that news organizations are free to criticize political leaders (72%). Trump supporters are much less likely to see each as very important to maintaining a strong democracy: 49% say it is very important that news organizations are free to criticize leaders and 48% say it is very important that those who lose elections recognize the winners. Among Trump supporters, just 42% of those who back him strongly say it’s very important for the losers of elections to recognize the winners, compared with 57% of those who support him less strongly.