Despite democracy fears, more Americans accept Biden's election than they did Trump's four years ago

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Despite media concerns about the state of democracy, more Americans today believe that President Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election is legitimate than the number of Americans who said the same about former President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory when asked in 2017.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe Biden’s 2020 win was the legitimate election result compared to 29% who say the president’s win was illegitimate, according to the results of a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Saturday.

President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The results come a year after Trump claimed that widespread election fraud caused his defeat in 2020, a claim that many of his supporters continue to believe.

Trump’s accusations of election fraud have been dubbed the “Big Lie” by some in the media, and many have opined that so many believing Biden is an illegitimate president poses a unique threat to American democracy.

“I’ve never been more scared about American democracy than I am right now, because of the metastasizing of the ‘big lie,'” election law expert Rick Hasen commented earier this month in an NPR story entitled “The clear and present danger of Trump’s enduring ‘Big Lie’.”

Many articles expressed similar sentiment, including a story in The Hill entitled, “Democracy’s sudden peril was an inside-job” and another in The Guardian headlined, “Trump’s fraud claims undermine democracy, ex-US election security chief says.”

Meanwhile, Biden has called many GOP-lead efforts to strengthen election integrity “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole, since the Civil War.”

“There is an unfolding assault taking place in America today — an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections, an assault on democracy,” Biden said in July.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

But while many Americans believe Biden is an illegitimate president, the same poll conducted four years earlier found that more Americans believed Trump was not legitimately elected. That poll showed that 57% of Americans believed Trump was legitimately elected, while 42% said he was illegitimately elected.

Questions surrounding the legitimacy of Trump’s victory largely stemmed from claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to steal the election, though Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into the allegations found no evidence the campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia.

Despite the later finding that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, the story dominated much of the first half of Trump’s time in office. According to one Harvard analysis of media coverage during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, 9% of all coverage was devoted to the Russia collusion story.

President Biden. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
(ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The questions surrounding the legitimacy of the last two presidential elections have resulted in a waning trust for American democracy, the poll found. When asked how proud they were of how democracy works in America, 54% said they were either proud or very proud. That number was 63% in 2017 and 74% in 2014.

The poll was conducted between Dec. 17-19, 2021, sampling 1,101 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

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