The share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who believe that President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was not legitimate has ticked back up, according to a new CNN poll fielded throughout July. All told, 69% of Republicans and Republican-leaners say Biden’s win was not legitimate, up from 63% earlier this year and through last fall, even as there is no evidence of election fraud that would have altered the outcome of the contest.
The new poll, conducted in the run-up to former President Donald Trump’s indictment on Tuesday over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, suggests the share of election deniers among his partisans has climbed to a level last seen before hearings held last year by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack. In January of 2022, 67% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they thought Biden’s win was not legitimate; that had been as high as 72% in CNN polling in the summer of 2021.
Among Republican-aligned adults, the share who believe there is solid evidence proving the election was not legitimate stands at 39%, while 30% say it is merely their suspicion that Biden did not win legitimately, and 29% say Biden’s election was legitimate. The 39% of Republicans and Republican-leaners saying that Biden’s win was not legitimate and that there is evidence for it is not much changed from May, when 36% said the same, and it is well below the high point for that belief, which was 54% shortly after the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021.
Overall, 61% of Americans say Biden did legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency, and 38% believe that he did not. Among registered voters who say they cast a ballot for Trump in 2020, 75% say they have doubts about Biden’s legitimacy.
But those who supported Trump in 2020 are actually less likely than those who backed Biden to say that a shared view on that year’s election is a must for them to support candidates for federal office next year. Overall, 30% of Americans say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their view on the 2020 election, 49% would consider it just one of many important factors, and 20% say it wouldn’t be a major issue for them. Those who say they voted for Biden in 2020 are more likely to see it as an essential shared view (48%) than are those who voted for Trump (20%).
About half of Americans continue to feel that it is at least somewhat likely that elected officials will successfully overturn the results of a US election if their party does not win (50%). That view has been fairly stable since CNN began polling on the question in summer 2021. There has been an uptick in the share of political independents who feel that it’s at least somewhat likely, though, from 42% who felt that way last summer to 53% now.
And most Americans lack confidence that elections in the US today reflect the will of the people. Overall, 58% say they are just a little or not at all confident that elections reflect the public’s will, while 42% say they are at least somewhat confident they do. Only 13% are “very confident” that elections reflect the will of the people, the lowest share to say so in CNN polling since 2021. That deep confidence has declined somewhat among Democrats (from 26% last year to 21% now), and about half of Republicans say they have no confidence at all (48%), similar to last year.
Biden’s approval rating for protecting democracy in the US has dipped into negative territory: 44% approve and 55% disapprove. That stood at a near even 50% approve to 49% disapprove in December. That shift has come fairly evenly across party lines, and in the new poll, 84% for Democrats, 42% of independents and 7% of Republicans approve of his handling of the issue.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from July 1 through July 31 among a random national sample of 1,279 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. For the sample of 547 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, it is plus or minus 5.7 points.