The American electorate has turned deeply skeptical about the integrity of the nation's election apparatus, with 41 percent of voters saying November's election could be "stolen" from Donald Trump due to widespread voter fraud.
The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — conducted among 1,999 registered voters Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 — shows that Trump's repeated warnings about a "rigged" election are having effect: 73 percent of Republicans think the election could be swiped from him. Just 17 percent of Democrats agree with the prospect of massive fraud at the ballot box.
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The public sentiment is beginning to reflect Trump's campaign message. Over the last week, the GOP nominee has intensified his criticism of the U.S. electoral system, much to the chagrin of elected Republicans, who think it threatens the peaceful transfer of power. Trump calls the process rigged, and has said the media is colluding with Hillary Clinton to throw the presidential race in her favor.
Trump's comments casting doubt upon the process have drawn a gentle rebuke from House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose spokesperson put out what would ordinarily be an unremarkable statement on Saturday: "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."
But voters generally approve of Trump's rhetoric. Nearly 60 percent of those polled said it's necessary to raise questions about the accuracy of the election results, because the election could be compromised by voter fraud or a foreign government. Specifically, 70 percent of Republicans polled say it's necessary.
Voters are generally confident, however, that their vote will be counted. Eighty percent of registered voters say they are very or somewhat confident their own vote will be counted in November. Thirty percent of those same voters expressed skepticism that votes will be counted across the country.
"The results show that voters are increasingly losing confidence that votes around the country will be counted accurately on Election Day," said Kyle Dropp, cofounder and chief research officer at Morning Consult. "The sentiment especially rings true among Trump's supporters, with half expressing concern about a 'rigged election.'"
But the balloting is already well underway in many of the nearly three dozen states that allow early voting. Forty-three percent of voters say they will vote early, either by absentee or in person.
With 22 days until Election Day, nearly every credible national survey shows Clinton leading Trump by a margin ranging from five to 11 points. Overall, just 33 percent of the public believes the polls are biased in favor of Clinton. But a stunning 60 percent of Republicans say they are biased against Trump.
The past few days also saw an intensified internecine battle within the GOP. Speaker Ryan said he would not defend or work on behalf of Trump. Trump, in return, called Ryan a feckless leader — a message that hasn't exactly resonated with Republican voters. Forty-four percent of Republicans say they favor Ryan as speaker, while 37 percent say they want new leadership.
One thing is certain, and it's clear across every major national poll: Trump is behind in his quest for the White House. In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, which included interviews with 1,737 likely voters, Clinton is beating Trump by 5 percentage points in a two-way race, 46 percent to 41 percent. In the four-way contest, Clinton is beating Trump 42 percent to 36 percent, with 10 percent supporting Gary Johnson and 3 percent supporting Jill Stein.
Voters favor Democrats for Congress, as they lead the GOP, 45 percent to 38 percent, in the generic ballot test.
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.