The Public Religion Research Institute released a remarkable new poll this morning that confirms the point. It finds that a huge majority of Republican respondents say voter fraud is a bigger problem than restricted access to voting is. And there is a striking racial divide on this question as well — more on that in a moment.
The poll finds that among Americans overall, only 43 percent have a great deal of confidence that their votes will be counted accurately. That’s unfortunate, to be sure. Meanwhile, the partisan divide is notable: 55 percent of Democrats have a great deal of confidence in the vote counting, while 44 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Trump supporters feel the same way.
Here’s where it gets worse. Only 37 percent of Americans believe that “people casting votes who are not eligible to vote” is a bigger problem than “eligible voters being denied the right to vote,” which is seen as a bigger problem by 41 percent. But a huge majority of Republicans sees the former as the bigger problem:
Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Republicans believe voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement, compared to only 19% of Democrats. More than six in ten (62%) Democrats say eligible voters being denied access is the bigger problem facing the election system.
The racial divide is also striking. According to numbers provided to me by PRRI, African Americans say that denial of access to eligible voting is the bigger problem by 66-21, while whites say that voter fraud is the bigger problem by 42-35. But as Ari Berman recently demonstrated, voter suppression is a far more extensive problem than is voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent:The real danger to American democracy stems from GOP efforts to make it harder to vote. New voting restrictions — like voter-ID laws, cuts to early voting and barriers to voter registration — that are in place in 14 states for the first time in 2016 will make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast a ballot. And voters are lacking crucial protections because this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full provisions of the Voting Rights Act…. It’s incredibly unlikely there will be widespread voter fraud on Election Day. But there will be eligible voters who show up to vote and are turned away from the polls. That’s the real threat to election integrity we should be focusing on.
Yet the public is closely divided on this question, and Republican voters are overwhelmingly think voter fraud is the bigger problem.
Republicans will continue to blame "voter fraud" for every loss that they suffer from here on out, particularly "voter fraud" by black and Latino voters. They will then continue to try as hard as possible to keep black and Latino voters from voting at all.
That's the real fight going forward.