Written Testimony: President Trump’s Rhetoric Undermined Confidence in Elections Among His Supporters

May 1, 2023

Just Security

This testimony was written by a team of political scientists affiliated with six research universities across the U.S. This testimony reports the key findings from their research on the effect that former President Trump’s false claims of widespread voter and electoral fraud had on public faith in the election system.

In short, the research shows that Trump’s baseless attacks on election integrity during the 2020 campaign reduced trust and confidence in elections and increased beliefs that elections are rigged among his supporters. This conclusion is based on a peer-reviewed experiment conducted that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Clayton et al. 2021). 

Shared faith in the integrity of elections is essential to democracy, which requires losers to accept the other side holding power. Dissatisfaction with the outcome of an election must be offset by belief in the legitimacy of the process that produced it. In other countries, decreased confidence in electoral integrity is associated with lower voter turnout and civic engagement as well as increased social instability and violence (Norris 2014).

President Trump’s increasingly frequent claims about election fraud in summer 2020 therefore raised alarms among experts and election observers. On May 26, for instance, he tweeted that “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent” (Clark 2020). In a June 23 speech, he stated that “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country” (Shear and Kanno-Youngs 2020). Between January 1 and July 30, 2020, Trump had already made 91 such claims (Glasser 2020), raising concerns that the frequency of his claims would increase as the election drew nearer.

Read the written testimony.