The Big Lie is Working

A majority of Americans are less than sure that Biden won the 2020 election.

As the caption indicates, the above graphic was taken from the reporting on a just-released poll by the Department of Political Science and Program in Legal Studies at the University of Massassachussets at Amherst on the 2020 election and the January 6 riots. Their analysis:

One year after thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to protest and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, the results of a new national  University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll released today show 71% of Republicans – and one-third of the nation – continue to believe that Biden’s victory was illegitimate, and that Republicans continue to blame Democrats, Antifa and the Capitol Police for the events of Jan. 6. They also oppose both the continuation of law enforcement efforts to prosecute the rioters and attempts to learn more about what happened that day.

The poll of 1,000 respondents found that only 58% of Americans believe that Biden’s electoral victory was legitimate, with more than a fifth (22%) saying that it was “definitely not legitimate,” numbers nearly identical to an April 2021 UMass Amherst Poll (59% / 24%). Only one-fifth of Republicans (21%) view Biden’s victory as legitimate.

“Given the continued questioning of Biden’s victory by prominent Republican elected officials, conservative media personalities and former President Trump, it is no surprise that 7 in 10 Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters view the results of the 2020 election with skepticism, if not outright disbelief,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “However, overall American opinion on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election has remained steady since April, as close to 6 in 10 Americans view Biden’s victory as legitimate.”

Emphases mine.

While the plurality view is that Biden won the election fairly and is therefore the legitimate President, the fact that only 46 percent are definite in that belief—and therefore a 54 percent majority are less than sure—is stunning to me. That a full 71 percent of Republicans believe otherwise isn’t that surprising at this juncture but that almost a third of self-described Independents are in that camp is. And that 18 percent of Democrats are less than sure is just . . . weird.

Other findings and analysis:

Republicans continue to defend the events of Jan. 6 and those who perpetrated the attacks on the capitol, with 80% describing the events as a “protest,” while the majority (55%) of all respondents of the poll use the term “riot.” While 62% of Republicans said the perpetrators were “protestors,” more than a quarter (26%) deemed the pro-Trump horde “patriots,” while similar numbers (27%) also said they were “Antifa.” Democrats, meanwhile, nearly equally described them as “insurrectionists,” “white nationalists” and “rioters” (68% each), a “mob” (67%) and “terrorists” (64%).

“Women and people of color are more likely to use negative words such as ‘insurrection’ and ‘riot’ to describe the events of January 6,” La Raja says. “Meanwhile older, wealthier, conservatives and whites are more likely to use the term ‘protest’ than other groups. Very few Trump voters view the events as anything worse than a protest.”

I have long since settled on “riot” as the best all-encompassing term to describe what I see as a multifaceted event. To me, “protest” is a fair description of the Stop the Steal rallies outside the Capitol but an absurd description of even the most benign activities that took place illegally inside the building.

“A large plurality of Americans – 44% – blame Donald Trump for the events of Jan. 6 compared to any other person or group,” [Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll] says. “Only 4% blame Joe Biden. Stunningly, almost one-in-three Republican voters blame the Democratic Party for the events of the day. On the flip side, just 8% of Democrats voters blame the Republican Party. They blame Trump by a wide margin, with 75% saying he is the cause of it all.”

That so many Republicans have bought into the Antifa nonsense remains baffling to me. That the overwhelming number of Democrats pinpoint the blame to Trump and not the larger party is encouraging if surprising. While I see Trump as obviously far and away the most responsible, enough prominent Republican leaders aided and abetted him in spreading the Big Lie ahead of the riots and continue covering for them after the fact that the party can’t escape some share of the blame.

“Perceptions of the events of Jan. 6 have remained strikingly stable over the past year, despite the dramatic and disturbing revelations of the January 6 Commission,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “This stability reveals the remarkable power of ideology and partisanship in shaping these perceptions, even in the face of contrary evidence. Significant majorities of Americans want prosecutions of participants in the events of Jan. 6 and want further investigation of what happened, but a substantial share do not. The commission’s work is seriously complicated by polarization over what happened that day, a problem intentionally abetted by politicians.”

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that information hasn’t changed perceptions much over the last eight months. We don’t know a whole lot more now than we did in April.

The one question in which the poll found nearly identical bipartisan response pertained to whether Congress and the vice president should hold the power to certify – and possibly nullify – presidential elections. Forty-four percent of Democrats and 43% of Republicans responded that the power should not rest with the vice president and Congress, while 23% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats said that it should.

“The events of Jan. 6 and the Trump administration’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election highlighted the potential dangers associated with the nation’s current process of certifying the presidential election, and a plurality of Americans oppose giving the U.S. Congress and the sitting vice president the power to certify and potentially nullify electoral results moving forward,” Nteta says. “Given the increased politicization of the process by which presidential electoral results are certified, it is not shocking that a plurality of Americans oppose giving this power to the Congress and sitting vice president.”

While this wouldn’t be surprising in a vacuum, it’s odd in context. How one can be angry that Pence didn’t help steal the election while simultaneously thinking it a bad idea to give the Vice President the power, I don’t understand. But, of course, none of this is rational.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kylopod says:

    It’s worth contrasting this with the degree to which Dems have questioned past elections. After 2016, there was a poll showing that one-third of Dems didn’t accept Trump as the legitimate president. Not insignificant, but a far cry from the 71% of Repubs now who claim 2020 was a stolen election.

    Even after 2000, which actually was a stolen election, the results were similar: only about a third of Dems believed the election was stolen (though interestingly, there was a racial divide, with a majority of blacks believing it was stolen). In contrast, the claim that 2020 is a stolen election was made up out of whole cloth–there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it. Yet far more Republicans believe it than Dems who accept the much more credible claim about 2000.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    When things don’t go their way, people resent reality. A mature individual understands this resentment for what it is (sour grapes) and gets on with their life. People who have never matured beyond adolescence glom onto whatever fantasy makes them feel better. So yes, the Republican leadership is full of grifters, loons and trash that don’t care about the country and will tell their base anything they want to hear, but an equal or even more important factor is what the Republican base has become. For years the Party has been in a vicious feedback loop wherein the base demands ever more fantasies from their political leaders and, if those demands aren’t met, those political leaders are replaced with those who will cater to the fantasies. This drives decent and clear headed people away from the party, leaving an even higher percentage of fantasists.

    The problem we have right now is that our two party system is in transition. One Party, the Republicans, now contains a majority of the populace that is unable to deal with reality, and resentful and demanding too boot. Meanwhile the Democratic Party is still evolving the factions that will allow it to serve the functions of a two or multi-party system. But the way things are headed, either the Republicans will go the way of the Whigs, becoming increasingly fringe over the next 4-5 elections, while the Democrats split into identifiable factions that serve our two party desire, OR the Republicans will succeed as a full-on fascist party. I really can’t see any other road ahead.

  3. Arm The Homeless says:


    I don’t see why the GQP can’t survive as 20–or so–regional parties that hold enough power to maintain gridlock and win the Presidency (though not gain a a majority of votes) on occasion.

    The coalition that fuels the GQP doesn’t want/ need policy wins–their post-policy frankly–they just need to cause enough damage locally and rely on their judges to codify that damage into precedent.

  4. CSK says:

    Obviously Trump’s refusal to shut up about this has had some effect. I had thought that even some of his supporters would get sick of the constant whining and complaining, but apparently not. Wrong again.

    Trump once said that he whined and whined (his words) till he got what he wanted. He may have been right.

  5. Kathy says:

    America really, really needs for Benito to die in prison if democracy is to have a chance to survive past 2024.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:


    I’d settle for him just dying or even an Ariel Sharon like coma.

  7. KM says:

    That so many Republicans have bought into the Antifa nonsense remains baffling to me.


    This is a party that actively disbelieves a pandemic killing hundreds a day and refuses to do anything to help control the spread or minimize the impact. They invented a nonsense racial theory that they are now using get books actually burned in libraries and teachers intimidated into not talking about past social sins. They think there’s some conspiracy about celebrities stealing kids to make a drug you can get off Amazon cheap but simply MUST let the word know via coded signals to brag. They think Trump actually gives a damn about them and they’re brave fighters against a world gone mad, taking brave stands like the martyrs of old.

    Their entire worldview is based on obvious lies – why not Antifa? Why not a faceless bogeyman that’s a great scapegoat for when their own get caught being stupid or dangerous? No True Scotsman’s avatar, running around in Trump-branded MAGA gear but somehow a deep state fakeout trick meant to smear their glorious name. Antifa did it – Antifa always does it when it goes wrong. It’s “patriots” if you believe 1/6 was a good thing and “Antifa” if you worry it might make you look bad to be associated with a riot.

  8. Matt Bernius says:

    That a full 71 percent of Republicans believe otherwise isn’t that surprising at this juncture but that almost a third of self-described Independents are in that camp is.

    I guess I’m not surprised by this only because as we know the majority of “Independents” are not “Independent.” These are folks who choose not to belong to a party for a variety of reasons. And at least since the 2006 elections, there have been a significant number of reliable Republican voters who have opted to become “Independents.” And of that group, a lot have made that move because they see the party as being too RINO.

    What is frustrating to me is that they have the cross-tabs to break the “independent” (and all the categories) out into liberal/neutral/conservative lean and they don’t. That does everyone a disservice.

    That so many Republicans have bought into the Antifa nonsense remains baffling to me.

    I suspect there are two things going on throughout this survey. The first is “believe” may be doing a lot of work here. I suspect that some percentage of these folks probably does not believe any of the above (at least in the normal quasi-religious way we think of believing) and are aligning to these points as a matter of identity politics. Note: I don’t think that’s particularly good or healthy.

    Also, I think we need to account for guilt/shame. Much like the reaction to CRT among conservatives being used to suppress history (or go with the old “those things happened in the past why do we need to keep focusing on them”), I think there is a not-insignificant amount of Republicans who just want us to put Jan 6 into the memory hole and pretend it didn’t happen because they know it was Trump Supporters.

    As I always point out on posts related to Jan 6th, all of the usual suspects are almost always completely silent on this topic. At best we have JKB trying to handwave (i.e. it wasn’t a riot or BLM was worse). But no one actually wants to step up and defend the underlying premise or suggest that the election was actually stolen. And that, to me, speaks volumes about the fact that they understand exactly what happened.

    As for the rest of the Antifa crowd, they have built themselves a media cocoon that profits on telling them what they want to hear.

  9. Matt Bernius says:

    Also James, I think this also gets back to a previous topic you wrote. I realize you’re doing commentary here, but the fact you are using “Big Lie” is important. Regardless of their role in directly planning the riot, there is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that people within Trump’s circle willfully and intentionally planned and executed a “Big Lie” strategy.

    The facts, especially now, are abundantly clear and all of the evidence on the group demonstrates how it’s a lie (i.e. intentionally speaking mistruths despite all facts pointing to the opposite). However, I suspect, based on a previous post, you would bristle if Reporters in the news (and even possibly the analysis) section referred to it as such in news stories. And I think that is exactly where clinging to some sense of “objectivity” or “non-partisan” presentation of facts helps lead to polls like these (especially with people who don’t consume a lot of news beyond headlines).

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    How one can be angry that Pence didn’t help steal the election while simultaneously thinking it a bad idea to give the Vice President the power, I don’t understand.

    How can God love us and yet condemn us to eternal torture if we fail to love him back?

    How can an omniscient God condemn us for behaving exactly as he knew we would when he created us?

    How can God condemn a child to hell for his parents failure to get him baptized?

    Religion is belief in nonsense, and the overwhelming majority of people who believe the Big Lie are religious. This is not a mystery. People prepared to swallow one load of bullshit will swallow another and another. . . They develop a taste for it.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: there was a poll showing that one-third of Dems didn’t accept Trump as the legitimate president.

    I have to wonder how many of those DEMs felt this way because the Electoral College was at odds with the popular vote. Meaning they acknowledged the EC victory but thought it was an antidemocratic result.

  12. Kylopod says:


    I have to wonder how many of those DEMs felt this way because the Electoral College was at odds with the popular vote. Meaning they acknowledged the EC victory but thought it was an antidemocratic result.

    That’s actually a good point which I forgot about while writing this post.

    The issue of Russian meddling also clouds many people’s perceptions of that election.

    Whenever people have asked me, I have always said I consider Trump to have been legitimately elected in 2016. And I say that as someone who hates the EC, wants to see it abolished, and considers it an anti-democratic institution. (My position is that it’s the game we have, for better or worse, and as long as you win that game according to the rules, your win is “legitimate” as far as it goes.) I may be in the minority among liberals: I recall when this question was raised here in 2017, many of the regular commenters argued that Trump was not a legitimate president.

    Indeed, in some ways I think the focus in 2000 on Bush’s having clearly lost the popular vote somewhat distracted from the very real questions over his supposed electoral college victory. In contrast, unless you go down a conspiracy rabbit hole, I don’t think there’s any question that Trump in 2016 decisively (albeit narrowly) won the EC.

    At bottom, “legitimate” is always going to be a slippery and subjective term. You ask people whether a certain president is legitimate, a lot of people will deny it simply as a way of expressing their view that the president sucks.

  13. Modulo Myself says:

    I think there are different kinds of legitimacy. I thought Bush did not, in the end, win Florida in 2000, and that the Supreme Court issued an utterly partisan decision in stopping the vote counting. But Florida in 2000 was a dead heat. He certainly might have won the election, and the odious stuff they did with the felon list doesn’t mean that somehow his support was not there. It didn’t occur for me to believe it was all just a fake.

    When people believe Biden didn’t win, they believe that Biden’s voters don’t deserve a vote and that in the end the votes were just fiction. Even if they were real, they shouldn’t have counted. They don’t even think the election was close, or that it even mattered. I mean, we are already have trolling candidates talking about allocating votes based on how many children you have in your family. It’s clear where these people are coming from.

  14. Kylopod says:

    @Modulo Myself: Those are very good points which I’ve thought about before. When people say Gore really won, they are focusing on the evidence showing that he did win–albeit very, very narrowly in what was essentially a tie. Nobody ever suggested he was some god-emperor who was incapable of losing. Yet that’s exactly what Trumpists have basically said about Trump. I’ve seen interviews with them, and in many cases they don’t talk about stories of voter fraud at all: they say there’s no way the doddering, senile Biden who was in his basement all year could have defeated the awesome, popular Trump. It’s pure Argument from Personal Incredulity. And it fits the way Trump has always talked about elections he’s run in. In the 2016 primaries, he repeatedly accused Cruz of cheating whenever Cruz won a state. He refused to say he’d acknowledge Hillary’s victory if she won, and there were moments when he explicitly said the only way he’d lose was through fraud. After he won the EC, he denied he’d truly lost the popular vote. And he telegraphed how he was going to react to a 2020 defeat long before it happened. Anyone who was paying the slightest attention knew exactly what was going to happen in that scenario. The following is from a Washington Monthly article from mid-2019, before Covid, before the big shift to vote by mail, before it was even known who the Dem nominee would be:

    It is Wednesday morning, November 4, 2020. At 7:15 a.m., after a stressful night of watching the returns trickle in, the Associated Press projects that the Democratic presidential candidate will win Pennsylvania, and, with it, the presidency. Sure enough, it’s a narrow victory–279 electoral votes to 258. When all is said and done, the Democrat wins Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by only about 77,000 votes combined, the same amount Trump won those states by in 2016.

    Donald Trump, who spent the past five months warning about fraud, has been eerily silent for most of the night. But as soon as the Democrat takes the stage to give her victory speech, he unleashes a barrage of tweets claiming that over 100,000 illegal immigrants voted in Michigan and that Philadelphia kept its polls open for hours later than allowed. “Without PHONY voters, I really won!” he tweets. “This is FRAUD!” Needless to say, the president does not call to congratulate his opponent. At an afternoon press conference, Trump’s press secretary announces he will not concede….

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    @Michael Reynolds:..Religion is belief in nonsense,..

    Exhibit 1: Virgin birth.
    Exhibit 2: Resurrection of the dead.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    Alternate strategy idea for the Democrats:

    Start creating “regional” pseudo government bodies that take up most of the regulatory and enforcement duties of the federal government and then use their federal position to gridlock any attempts to take action against these entities.

    They seem to be unintentionally heading this way with the increasing use of multi-state compacts, but maybe they should make it explicit. Much like the emoluments clause is now dead letter law because there’s no way to enforce it, let’s make the compact clause similarly dead letter.

    The sane parts of the country can become modern nations without the “tribal regions” continuing to hold them back

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    Apparently I inadvertently used a different Email address.
    Contrary to popular belief there has not been a schism among the pastafarians. I do not worship with tin men who wear funnels on their heads.

  18. Modulo Myself says:


    For Republicans, Florida was a warm-up for Trump. They treated the idea of an accurate recount with such contempt and yet there was a rigid faith that this contempt had nothing to do with the fact that Gore probably won the state. Any normal observer would have been like, “You guys are furious at the Gore campaign because you probably lost.” But the Republican response was to be baffled at the idea of self-deception, as if nobody can recognize that in another person.

    Trump took these people and gave them an allowance to run wild.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: There does seem to be a distinction between feeling Trump was “illegitimate” and feeling he was not legally president. I’m sure one can nut pick Ds who felt the election wasn’t legal, but I can’t recall any mainstream D saying so. As you point out, many may have felt it was illegitimate because the EC didn’t give the win to the vote winner. And there was, and still is, the whole Russia thing. I would add that I, and I think many others, felt TFG was illegitimate because he was obviously so screamingly unqualified.

  20. CSK says:

    Trump really didn’t expect to win, did he? It was all, or mostly, a branding exercise for him. And the ego-boost of campaigning.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @Modulo Myself: I agree, but I should add that much of this didn’t spring out of nowhere; it reflected debates that had been going on for decades. I’m in the middle of reading Rick Perlstein’s Reaganland, which describes how back in the ’70s Republicans opposed attempts to get more voters registered, and Reagan came right to the edge of explicitly arguing that certain Americans were lazy moochers who didn’t deserve the franchise:

    He took up the same cudgel shortly after Carter’s inauguration when California adopted easier procedures: “Why don’t we try reverse psychology and make it harder to vote?” Now, following Carter’s electoral reform message, Reagan wrote in his column that what this was really about was boosting votes from “the bloc comprised of those who get a whole lot more from the federal government in various kinds of income distribution than they contribute to it…. Don’t be surprised if an army of election workers–much of it supplied by labor organizations which have managed to exempt themselves from election law restrictions–sweep through metropolitan areas scooping up otherwise apathetic voters and rushing them to the polls to keep the benefit-dispensers in power.”

    My guess is that this type of thinking was rooted in a combination of the Southern Strategy (where the GOP took up many of the voter-suppression tactics once adopted by Dems in the South) and their own party’s tradition as an elitist Boys’ Club.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    The first is “believe” may be doing a lot of work here.

    Indeed. “Believe” is a funny word. It covers everything from my belief that if I walk out my back door I’ll be on the lanai to someone’s belief they’re Tutankhamun reincarnated.

    33% say definitely or probably Biden’s election was not legit. That’s only a little over the Crazification Factor. This is in a country where 45% believe in demons and ghosts. Interestingly, Rs a bit more than Ds. And only 13% believe in vampires, which is ridiculous. I mean, I’ve seen Jamie Dimon on TV.

  23. Scott F. says:

    Well, in 2012, Romney ostensibly ran against the Taker Class. And just this Monday night, Rand Paul tweeted support for the premise that Get Out the Vote for Democratic voters is “legally valid” yet somehow “stealing” elections.

    Rank and file Republican voters believe what they’ve been conditioned to believe over decades. Over time, the GOP has been purified into dupes and those who profit from exploiting dupes.

  24. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Maybe it’s at least partly because people (normal, reasonably intelligent, non-GOP people, I mean) keep reading about how other people are questioning the election results?

    Seriously, there should be a controlled experiment: get a real polling company to invent a fake name, go out into the field over the course of a year and ask respondents what their views are about the report that a flying saucer landed in rural Idaho and is kidnapping people who are taken into the saucer and never seen again. I am willing to bet that twelve months later, there will be a strong subsection of the public who believes this is happening because they keep hearing about it, the media will cover this apparent belief and the idea will become permanently embedded in our society because it must be true otherwise the media wouldn’t cover it. Even before Facebook would give it saturation coverage, it would be fixed in a core group’s collective mind.

    And any chance we had of getting real aliens to visit here from another galaxy would be over because, hey, would you?

  25. Modulo Myself says:


    Reagan was just an ordinary racist, and that’s what he thought about the world. I don’t think you have to dig deep to connect this to strategies. He didn’t dig deep for anything. He was a total idiot who rode idiocy to power. He became governor partly because of the backlash against the Watts riots. We accept racial backlash as a normal thing and not racist, but it only works if you never think about why anything happens. Imagine thinking that black people didn’t have cause to riot in Watts in 1965.

  26. steve says:

    Benghazi is the operative model here. We had 8 investigations with many of those lead by Republicans. They couldn’t find anything but they kept having more investigations, not even believing their own investigations. However, it did generate lots of donations and lots of committed voters. We should fully expect a lot more investigations with multiple investigations of the same events in the same staters. Will last at least 4 years.


  27. Kylopod says:

    @steve: I guess we can start taking wagers on when/if Republicans take the House next November, they will spend more time investigating Hunter Biden or voter fraud. Maybe they’ll combine the two and say his laptop contains the plans to stealing the 2020 election.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: You are on to something. From an old joke:

    “Ben Graham told a story forty years ago that illustrates why investment professionals behave as they do. An oil prospector, moving to his heavenly reward, was met by St. Peter with bad news. “You’re qualified for residence,” said St. Peter, “but, as you can see, the compound reserved for oil men is packed. There’s no way to squeeze you in.” After thinking a moment, the prospector asked if he might say just four words to the present occupants. That seemed harmless to St. Peter, so the prospector cupped his hands and yelled, “Oil discovered in hell.” Immediately, the gate to the compound opened and all of the oil men marched out to head for the nether regions. Impressed, St. Peter invited the prospector to move in and make himself comfortable. The prospector paused. “No,” he said, “I think I’ll go along with the rest of the boys. There might be some truth to that rumor after all.” —WARREN BUFFETT, 1985”

    The tragedy this isn’t really a joke, just a compact view of human history…

  29. Not the IT Dept. says:


    Well, I think there’s a real point there. If you keep asking people what their views or feelings are about something, no matter how loony, eventually people will assume that the something is real because otherwise who would bother wondering what people thought or felt about it? And as we see with the covid vaccine, Americans in particular are willing to dream themselves up a new reality based on their fears and feelings. Our grasp of reality is weakening.

  30. Slugger says:

    Let’s not forget the Rand Paul definition of “stealing votes” which is using methods that acknowledges are totally legal to get out votes that he doesn’t like.

  31. Kylopod says:

    Just in case anyone thought my last comment was just snark–and continuing with the theme that this shit goes back years–I’d like to pull up a quote by the “honorable” John McCain in 2008, where he managed to combine Bill Ayers and voter fraud through the usual connect-the-dots method:

    Senator Obama and Bill Ayers served on a board of the Woods Foundation and they gave $230,000 to ACORN. What’s that all about? He said that he was just a guy in the neighborhood.

    He wasn’t just a guy in the neighborhood. We know — we need to know the full extent of that relationship.

  32. Kathy says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    And any chance we had of getting real aliens to visit here from another galaxy would be over because, hey, would you?

    And how do you know we haven’t been here all along?

  33. Dude Kembro says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Religion is belief in nonsense…People prepared to swallow one load of bullshit will swallow another and another. . .

    No comment on the merits, but this is an odd message from the same folk constantly blaming the progressive left’s clueless messaging for alienating swing/suburban/moderate voters.

    The smug left’s “Your family’s faith tradition is nonsensical bullshit” is at least as damaging to Democratic Party electoral prospects as “Defund the Police.”

  34. Raoul says:

    I think a lot of republicans are gesture signaling. They say there was fraud yet they continue to vote. If one really thinks elections are a sham many would not vote as it would amount to a waste of time.

  35. Kylopod says:


    If one really thinks elections are a sham many would not vote as it would amount to a waste of time.

    I actually don’t entirely agree there. I mean, if you go the Sidney Powell/Mike Lindell route, where you claim the entire election was some giant manufactured conspiracy of China or Hugo Chavez’s ghost hacking into the machines and producing millions of nonexistent votes for Biden, then sure it would seem pretty hopeless (and these claims may indeed have depressed turnout during the Georgia runoffs back in January). But if you claim simply that there was massive voter fraud, then that doesn’t necessarily preclude the other side winning anyway. It’s like that common scene in sports movies where the villain cheats, but the hero manages to drag himself across the finish line anyway.

    And I should be clear here that I actually agree with the Trumpists that modern American elections are rigged. They’re rigged against Democrats. I believe, with full sincerity–and I’m more than willing to back this up–that in most elections today, the Democratic share of the vote is invariably smaller than what a free and fair election would show, due to Republicans suppressing the Democratic vote (usually through legal though highly unfair and antidemocratic measures). Saying an election is rigged is not the same as saying the party whom it’s rigged against can never win.

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    That so many Republicans have bought into the Antifa nonsense remains baffling to me.

    @KM: I agree that Republican acceptance of the Antifa nonsense is not puzzling at all, but for a different reason. If Republicans don’t buy into the Antifa nonsense, they have to decide what they are going to do about the fact that their party is the home of a bunch of lawless thugs. I suspect that it’s much easier to be “well, not really, but you never know for sure” about the lie than it is to decide to vote for Democrats despite the fact that they don’t share Democrat/liberal world view” as Dr. Joyner has done.

    I still think it’s easier to simply acknowledge the disenfranchisement from American political life wholesale, but if everyone did that…

  37. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Religion is belief in nonsense, and the overwhelming majority of people who believe the Big Lie are religious.

    As are the majority of people who don’t believe the Big Lie.

    Give or take 80% of Americans are religious. You have to find some pretty rarified, self-selected groups to find majority non-religious.

    (You can play with the definition of religious, but you are likely to affect the Big Lie group almost as much as the Not Big Lie Group)

    We’re not even up to a correlation/causation error. Your poor grasp of even setting up a statistical group bothers me.

    The majority of Black folks are religious. Is religion making them Black, or is their Blackness making them religious?

    The majority of people who believe the Big Lie are straight too. Does that tell you anything about straight people? Can you use one to predict the other? No and no.

    I do strongly suspect that the majority of queer folk do not believe the Big Lie, and then we can get into correlation/causation errors involving same sex relationships increasing belief in our institutions, and embark on a campaign to have gays and lesbians seduce straight America… or look for another cause.

  38. SC_Birdflyte says:

    On the gravestone of our democracy should be chiseled the words: “United States of America – died of incorrigible stupidity.”

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: On the other hand, if you were part of a Republican majority in Congress, which would you choose? Being seen obviously doing nothing or conducting continuing “investigations” into subjects of potential “national interest?”

    One of the things that I occasionally remind high school students of when I substitute is that a valuable skill to develop for the future is learning how to look legitimately busy even though you have nothing to do. It can also be applied in cases of shirking responsibility, but I try to avoid emphasizing that.

  40. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Well, remember also how they passed Obamacare repeal numerous times. So they still were doing things that had at least a pretense of being policy-related.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: “Religion is belief in nonsense, and the overwhelming majority of people who believe the Big Lie are religious.” […] “As are the majority of people who don’t believe the Big Lie.”

    You DO realize that the first statement is an article of faith with the speaker, so that what he hears when you respond is “blah, blah, blah,” right?

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: “So they still were doing things that had at least a pretense of being policy-related.”

    And see what that got the Republicans–a clean sweep in 2020. I’m willing to bet they won’t make THAT mistake again.

  43. Gustopher says:


    Your poor grasp of even setting up a statistical group bothers me.

    This continues to bother me. I really don’t know how people function and make decisions and have beliefs about things without some idea of very basic statistics.

    Not necessarily rigorous definitions, or calculating standard deviations, or even knowing what a standard deviation is, but just basic “is there even a strong correlation here?” level stuff.

    If the majority of A (Big Lie Believers) is also B (religious), does it tell you anything if you aren’t accounting for the how religious the population at large is? How do you have a gut feel for whether it is significant?

    (And that’s before getting into what causes any correlation — guessing based on limited data is fine so long as you remember it is a guess and are open to the guess being wrong… that’s called a hypothesis, and you’re looking for a way to test it to make it a theory)

    I get that the vast majority of people don’t think this way, but I have no idea how people function like that without then being led down a rabbit hole of absurdity.

    I’m not even sure whether it’s better or worse to hand off that analysis to someone you hope is smarter, or try to figure it out on your own.

  44. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You DO realize that the first statement is an article of faith with the speaker, so that what he hears when you respond is “blah, blah, blah,” right?

    I really am more bothered by his lack of understanding of just how niche non-religious people are.

    Sure, religion is belief in nonsense, but if 80% are religious and the rest grew up marinating in religious culture… Then belief in religious nonsense (or incorporating the nonsense without the belief) is close to universal and tells us nothing.

    Plus, we all believe in things we cannot directly prove, and we believe all sorts of nonsense as a result (the war of northern aggression, racism is mostly a southern thing, seven Jews run the world, if you study the Torah hard enough you can be one of the seven, everyone can get ahead in America if they just work hard enough). Belief in nonsense, in and of itself, tells us nothing!

  45. JohnSF says:

    Those figures for Independents!
    What on Earth do the 17% “probably legitimate” think that “legitimate ” means in any case?

    The combination of preference for “things are/should be as I understand them/want them to be” and (commercially/politically) polluted information channels is highly damaging.
    As is, “we must look at both sides of the argument” when the other side is patent nonsense.

    I’d note though, that IMO religiosity-driven irrationality in public affairs, rather than in theology and private lives, is a relative novelty in the modern West.
    I think it relates to the emergent populist political/cultural predominance of American fundamentalist/evangelical “cheap grace” communions whose concept of a saviour is closer to John Wayne than Jesus

  46. JohnSF says:

    “One can’t believe impossible things,” said Alice.
    “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  47. JohnSF says:

    It might be, that being seduced by beautiful polyamorous agnostics, while ingesting various psychotropic compounds, increases ones level of relative philosophic enlightenment.
    A hypothesis that requires more extensive and intensive empirical study.

    I volunteer for the required testing programme.

  48. Kathy says:

    I’m too busy to write a proper comment, so I’ll just state: there’s more to legitimacy than obtaining an office legally and according to the rules. There’s also what one does in discharging the duties of the office. Not whether policies succeed or fail, as important as that is, but why and how are such policies implemented, whether in good faith or not, etc.

  49. JohnSF says:

    Even more important in the UK, where under the unwritten (or at least, uncompiled) constitution, the system depended on “gentleman’s rules”, what’s “just not done”, “honour” etc.

    But then, perhaps any system depends upon observation of the unwritten rules, because writing them all down would be impossible. And make pragmatic adjustment impossible.
    But all systems are therefore open to exploitation unscrupulous “semi-outsiders” like Trump, Johnson, Berlusconi, Mussolini, Napoleon III etc etc. if they can gain the favour of mob who can’t see why such rule-sets are required and a section of the communicative elite (e.g. Murdoch/Barclays media, Koch/Mercer networks) .

  50. Kathy says:


    In the end the rule of law depends on the willingness of all people to abide by the law. More important is whether people obey the law when they face no consequences for breaking it, or when such consequences are unlikely.

    We’ve seen how Benito and his party take advantage of the situation.

  51. Stormy Dragon says:


    The John Hasnas essay “The Myth of the Rule of Law” is relevant here:

  52. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    To be more clear, the essay is interesting for its description of a problem (that “the rule of law” isn’t something that can actually exist), not Hasnas’s proposed solutions, which fall into the common problem among “libertarians” of correctly observing the nature of a problem but then proposing a crazy solution to it.

  53. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The fact that this paper has currency among libertarians is all you need to know about them. Complete inability to understand real life.

  54. JohnSF says:

    “…there is, in fact, no such thing as a government of laws and not people and that the belief that there is constitutes a myth that serves to maintain the public’s support for society’s power structure…”

    Libertarianism? Marxism 101 IYAM.
    Which also indicates why some communists are almost as bloody tedious as libertarians; similarly ludicrously detached from social reality.

  55. Dude Kembro says:

    While the plurality view is that Biden won the election fairly and is therefore the legitimate President, the fact that only 46 percent are definite in that belief—and therefore a 54 percent majority are less than sure—is stunning to me.

    Yes, the rot in America’s body politic is alarming. Maybe this poll is not just about the Trump-rot hurting Biden, though.

    If we polled Americans asking about Obama, Bush, and Clinton, wouldn’t we now find an outsized number of Americans skeptical about their electoral legitimacy as well?

    Americans are increasingly suspicious of official narratives and prone to conspiratorial thinking. Our collective crisis of confidence may be coming to a head under Biden, but it’s not limited to Dementia Donald’s sore loser election lies.

    This poll lets respondents define legitimacy for themselves. As others point out, legitimacy means something different for all of us. So legitimacy questions around an election-deciding Supreme Court decision are different than legitimacy questions around birtherism. Legitimacy questions based on popular vs electoral vote divergence are different from legitimacy questions based on Russian election interference.

    Moral legitimacy is important to some, legal legitimacy is paramount to others. Some would argue — with varying degrees of credibility — that an election is less than legitimate due to corporate money, or Illuminati predetermination, or mass voter fraud, or mass vote suppression, or media bias.

    As damaging as Drama Queen Donnie’s pathological lying is, maybe these poll results are more a sign of the times than just the Big Lie Effect by itself.

  56. Kylopod says:

    @Dude Kembro: If you look at the 2001 poll I cited upthread, it does ask respondents whether they consider Bush a legitimate president, but it also separately asks them whether they think the election was stolen–which is more concrete and specific. The UMass poll above only asks respondents whether they think Biden was “legitimately elected,” and I agree that’s somewhat vague and open to interpretation.

    But a Monmouth poll from June asked, “Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, or do you believe that he only won it due to voter fraud?” Among the Republican respondents, only 36% said fair and square, 57% said voter fraud. Not quite as stark a divide as in the “legitimate” question from the UMass poll, but still showing a majority of Republicans accepting the stolen-election narrative in some form.