Earlier this week, two friends of Donald Trump’s — one long-standing, one relatively new — got together to discuss the former president’s political fortunes. The setting was a television show hosted by the more-enduring friend, Piers Morgan. He was interviewing Trump’s newer ally, former Arizona candidate Kari Lake.
Lake’s failed bid for the state’s gubernatorial seat last year was heavily powered by untrue insistences that the 2020 presidential contest had been stolen from Trump. The pair’s conversation, as reported by Mediaite, quickly shifted onto similar terrain.
“The polls are showing that the majority of Americans now believe that the 2020 election was wrought with fraud,” Lake said, “and so the polls are changing—”
“No they don’t! That’s complete nonsense!” Morgan interjected. “As we would say across the pond, that’s an absolute whopper.”
“That’s true!” Lake insisted. “Rasmussen has a poll: 81 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats think the election …”
“The majority of Americans in every poll I’ve seen do not believe that the election was stolen,” Morgan replied. “Do you know why? Because it wasn’t stolen.”
“Well, I’m looking at polls,” Lake insisted with a smile.
To the extent that this is a debate worth considering, we can resolve it quickly. Morgan is correct; Lake is not.
It’s not entirely clear what survey from Rasmussen Reports Lake is referring to, but there was one published in May that had similar numbers. Asked how likely it was that “cheating affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” Rasmussen claimed that 45 percent of Democrats said this was likely, along with 64 percent of independents and 80 percent of Republicans. Not quite the same, but close enough.
“Surprisingly,” Rasmussen wrote about that poll, “42% of 2020 Biden voters also believe it’s at least somewhat likely that cheating affected the election outcome.”
That is surprising! To the point that it is not credible.
It is possible that respondents were offering a very literal assessment of the question. It is true that some people tried to cast illegal votes in 2020. A number of people have been arrested for doing so and, to a very, very small extent, some of those votes affected the outcome in a very broad sense. Maybe Biden won Michigan by 154,187 votes instead of 154,181. That sort of thing.
What’s more likely at play here is simply that Rasmussen’s results consistently skew to the right with results that are generous to the GOP. While this has long been the case, the company’s public presence has moved even further in that direction in recent months. Its poll questions often center on right-wing rhetoric, which it then presents in hyperbolic terms on social media. It shields its methodology from its peers, a habit that provoked a public tiff with FiveThirtyEight earlier this year.
We do have other polling that speaks to the point Lake was hoping to make. CNN released polling this week, conducted by SSRS, evaluating the extent to which Americans viewed Biden’s election as legitimate. It found that 6 in 10 do, including 93 percent of Democrats. Only among Republicans did a majority not think that was the case, with more than 4 in 10 claiming, falsely, that there was solid evidence Biden didn’t legitimately win enough votes to be elected.
These poll results are not surprising, which is a testament to what they show. Very, very few Democrats think Biden’s victory wasn’t legitimate. Most independents also reject that idea.
Lake’s embrace of Rasmussen’s numbers is probably in part a function of Rasmussen’s being viewed with more credibility on the right. It is probably mostly because the numbers say what Lake wants to hear. But the idea that most Americans, including nearly half of Democrats, think that cheating determined the 2020 results simply doesn’t pass the smell test. Nor are those findings replicated by pollsters that aren’t quickly categorized as politically influenced.
There is one more reason Lake might like that May Rasmussen poll. Rolling Stone recently reported that she and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are battling for influence in Trumpworld with an eye toward a vice-president slot. Were Greene Trump’s running mate, Rasmussen found, the Republican ticket would lose to President Biden by 4 points.
If Lake were running with Trump? They’d win by five.