If Donald Trump’s real goal in repeating endlessly that the election will be “rigged” is to make it true in the minds of his supporters for some post-election purpose, guess what — it’s working brilliantly.
But if his goal is also to convince the broader electorate that this is the case, he’s failing miserably.
A new Suffolk University poll released today finds that majorities or pluralities of Trump supporters worry that the election results could be manipulated; believe that if Trump loses, corruption will have been the culprit; think the media is actively coordinating with individual campaigns; and are persuaded that the multiple women who have accused him of unwanted advances are lying to hurt his campaign. At the same time, majorities of the broader electorate reject all of those assertions.
The Suffolk poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Trump among likely voters nationally by 47-38 in the four-way match-up. Here, with the help of the internals and the good folks over at Suffolk, who provided the additional data I asked for, are all the findings on perceptions of our rigged election:
1) More than two-thirds of Trump voters think the election results could be manipulated. By contrast, overall voters say by 57-38 that the election results will be fair and accurate, and eight in 10 Clinton voters agree.
2) A plurality of Trump voters, 43 percent, say that if their candidate loses, corruption cost him the election. By contrast, overall voters say by 55-28 that if their candidate loses, the opponent won fair and square and deserves the support of all Americans, and 72 percent of Clinton supporters say the same.
3) A majority of Trump voters — 59-32 — say the media is coordinating stories with individual campaigns, rather than acting completely of their own accord. By contrast, overall voters say the media is acting of their own accord by 48-39, and Clinton voters say the same by 63-23.
4) Trump voters say by 69-12 that the multiple women who have accused Trump of unwanted advances are lying to hurt his campaign, rather than telling the truth. By contrast, overall voters say by 51-33 that they are telling the truth, and Clinton voters say the same by 83-7.
Trump has accused the news media of coordinating with the Clinton campaign to tell the false stories brought forth by multiple women who accused him of unwanted advances. It appears Trump voters are willing to believe this.
So Trump voters seem to accept the broad story he’s telling about how various conspirators are rigging the election against him, but overall Americans don’t. Interestingly, though, if Trump is also trying to undermine faith in our democracy with this tale, it may not be working. The poll finds that 74 percent are either very (40) or somewhat (34) confident that the U.S. will have a peaceful transfer of power after the election.
A side note: the poll suggests that most Americans agree with Trump’s more narrow suggestion that the media is rooting for Clinton. Some 75 percent of respondents say the media would like to see Clinton elected president. And let’s face it, most people in the media probably do — perhaps in part because Trump represents a unique threat to the American experiment, including to the institutional role of the media in our democracy.
On the questions about the rigged election and media coverage, it’s hard to say how seriously we should take the responses of Trump supporters in this poll. Perhaps they aren’t really convinced of all of these things and are merely expressing frustration with how the campaign is going, or with the process in general. Or perhaps they really believe this stuff. Whichever it is, given that historians say it may be unprecedented in U.S. history for a major party candidate to be sowing doubts about the legitimacy of the process and outcome well in advance of the election, we may soon get to see what sort of lasting impact such a uniquely cynical effort to undermine our democracy might have on our civic health.
Anyway, this gives us yet another occasion to bring you our chart detailing the vast and complicated conspiracy to deny Trump the presidency. If the above polling is accurate, a whole lot of Trump supporters may believe that something approaching this is actually in the process of happening: