The majority of Americans do not support anti-democratic behavior, even when elected officials do

Despite rampant political polarization, the majority of Democrats and Republicans support democratic values and oppose political violence.

Recently, fundamental tenets of democracy have come under threat in the United States, from attempts to overturn the 2020 election to mass closures of polling places.

In a new study titled “Uncommon and nonpartisan: Antidemocratic attitudes in the American public” from the Polarization Research Lab, researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication, Dartmouth College, and Stanford University have found that despite this surge in anti-democratic behavior by U.S. politicians, the majority of Americans oppose anti-democratic attitudes and reject partisan violence.

Two charts; one shows that Americans have low levels of support for democratic norm violations, the other shows that Americans have low levels of support for political violence.
Image: Courtesy of Annenberg School for Communication

From September 2022 to October 2023, a period which included the 2022 midterm elections, the researchers surveyed more than 45,000 Democrats and Republicans on their attitudes toward five specific democratic norm violations. The violations were: reducing polling stations in areas where the other party is popular, being more loyal to party than election rules and the Constitution, censoring partisan media, believing that the president should circumvent Congress, and believing that elected officials of one’s own party should consider ignoring court decisions when the judges who issued these decisions were appointed by a president of the other party.

They also gauged these Americans’ feelings about four acts of political violence—assault, arson, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder—as well as their perceptions about the other party.

“Public opposition to anti-democratic actions and political violence was not only overwhelming, but also remarkably stable throughout the year,” says paper co-author Yphtach Lelkes, Polarization Research Lab co-director and associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School.

Read more at Annenberg School for Communication.