Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we analyse Americans current levels of trust in their system of representative democracy and ask what popular reforms could be enacted to help restore their faith in the system.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Our latest Westminster polling
  • Do swing state voters think America has control over its border with Mexico?

If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention (31 March):

Labour 46% (+4)
Conservative 22% (–)
Reform UK 14% (–)
Liberal Democrat 10% (-2)
Green 5% (-1)
Scottish National Party 3% (+1)
Other 2% (–)

Changes +/- 24 March

Combined Net Approval Ratings (31 March):

Keir Starmer: +10% (+4)
Rishi Sunak: -21% (+4)

Changes +/- 24 March

The start of British Summer Time has brought brighter evenings and renewed cheer for Britons after a long, dark, and (for many) abnormally wet winter.

One of those who will not be feeling any more cheerful these days, however, is the Prime Minister.

With just months to go until he must call the next election, Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Government appears in a state of terminal decline.

Nationally, Labour now enjoys a lead of 24%, with only 22% of voters currently saying they intend to vote Conservative. The party now retains the support of just 42% of its 2019 support base, the lowest figure we’ve recorded since Sunak became Prime Minister.

Things are no better in sub-national polling. 

In the Blue Wall seats of southern England, the Conservatives are now polling at a record low of 26%, two points below their worst vote share under Liz Truss. 

And in Wales—where Labour now leads the Conservative by 33%the Conservatives (16%) are now polling just one point ahead of Reform UK (15%), and currently retain the support of only 37% of their 2019 voters.

With the party’s 2019 support leaking in equal measure to both Labour and Reform UK—and with the Liberal Democrats a threat in many Blue Wall seats—even many conservative commentators now recognise the writing on the wall.

While the Prime Minister incoherently laughs off calls to name a date for the election, the continued dire state of the polls sets-up the local and mayoral elections on May 2 as a potentially decisive date in his own political future.

Chart of the Week

Despite a sharp drop in illegal border crossings since the start of the year, immigration remains a primary concern for many American voters in this election year.

Our latest poll of six key swing states, conducted in conjunction with The Telegraph, finds that majorities of voters in all six states polled (between 51% and 58%) say illegal immigration will be ‘extremely’ important in determining their vote in the Presidential Election.

The significance many voters now place on illegal immigration when weighing up how they will vote next November is bad news for President Biden.

The same swing states poll finds immigration is the issue on which the President’s approval rating consistently ranks the lowest among issues prompted, while more voters in all six states trust Donald Trump over Biden on immigration.

Unsurprisingly, Trump has made immigration (as he did in 2016 and 2020) a centrepiece of his campaign, promising this weekend to “Stop Biden’s Border Bloodbath” while referring to some of those who have entered the US illegally as “animals.”

For his part, the President and Democrats have condemned congressional Republicans for refusing to support the February border bill proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators, largely due to the opposition of President Trump to the bill’s passage.

But unhappiness with the situation is widespread. 

Majorities in all six swing states in our recent poll say they do not believe the United States currently has control over its borders. In Arizona, a border state which will be crucial next November, more than 7-in-10 (71%) now say the United States does not have control over its borders.

Amid the present situation, even many Democrats now favour the ‘solution’ to the crisis long proposed by Donald Trump. A recent national poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ for Newsweek finds that a plurality (38%) of Biden 2020 voters now say they support building a wall along the US-Mexican border to deter illegal migrants from entering the United States.

Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis

American Democracy Faces a Crisis

The long shadow cast by the 2020 election continues to cloud American politics four years later.

The record shattering number of voters who cast their ballots by mail in that election and the irregular counting of such votes sparked repeated, emphatic complaints from President Trump that the 2020 Election was “RIGGED” and had been “stolen” from him. His campaign to “Stop the Steal” culminated in the dramatic storming of the Capitol by his supporters on January 6 2021.

In the years since, the wide partisan trust gap in the electoral process that opened between Democrats and Republicans has never closed.

In mid-December 2020after the November election but before the events of January 6 at the Capitol—just 39% of Trump voters in the 2020 Presidential Election agreed with the statement “I have trust in the integrity of the electoral process in the United States.” 41% of those voters disagreed. 

Fast forward to last month. 40% of Trump 2020 voters in polling last week say they have trust in the integrity of the electoral process, against 39% who say they don’t, numbers which are almost exactly the same as they were in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 vote.

While trust in the integrity of the electoral process has fallen among Biden voters in the intervening period from 79% to 62%, they still retain much greater faith in the integrity of America’s elections than do Trump voters. 

When asked specifically about the coming Presidential Election, only 50% of Americans say they have trust that the 2024 Presidential Election in the United States will be free, fair, and secure, against 24% who say they do not.

Two-thirds (67%) of Biden 2020 voters agree that they trust the election to be free, fair, and secure, significantly more than the figure of Trump 2020 voters (39%). By comparison, it is worth noting, as we did in one of our earliest issues of Magnified, that Trump voters before the 2020 election were slightly more likely than Biden voters to have trust in the electoral system.

Suffice to say, a situation in which a quarter of Americans—and almost 2 in 5 of one candidate’s supporters—do not trust that a national election will be free, fair, and secure risks having a corrosive effect on Americans’ faith in their system of representative democracy as a whole.

For now, Americans broadly retain their faith in the current system.

57% of voters as a whole agree that representative democracy is the best form of government for the United States, with the numbers of Trump 2020 (57%) and Biden 2020 (66%) voters who hold this view reasonably comparable.

But there is some support for alternatives.

While 53% of Americans say representative democracy is a good system of government for the United States and 46% think a Swiss-style direct democracy would also be a good alternative, 30% think rule by a strong leader, without recourse to a legislature or the courts, would be a good system of government for the United States.

Perhaps more alarmingly, 18% also think rule by the military (in effect, a military dictatorship) would also be a good system of government for the country.

On the question of a strongman leader, 57% agree that such a person is needed in the United States today, including 73% of Trump 2020 voters and 50% of those who voted for Joe Biden.

At this point, it is important to acknowledge (in all humility) some of the limitations of opinion polling when considering such questions.

The weight voters give when answering, hypothetically, if they think rule by an undefined strongman or by the military would be good systems of government for the United States is not the same as they would give the same proposals if they were considering how to vote in a real-life referendum to change the American constitution to adopt either system.

But the fact that significant minorities of voters are willing to concede, even hypothetically, that such systems might be good for America should give all supporters of American democracy pause.

Given this finding, what can be done to restore Americans’ faith in their democracy? 

There are any number of suggestions for positive changes that could be made to the voting process and election procedures, some of which have attracted considerable public support in past polling.

One is to make Election Day a Federal Holiday in order to make it easier for Americans to vote.

In September 2021, 54% of Americans said they would support making Election Day a Federal Holiday, including majorities of both Trump (54%) and Biden (62%) voters at the previous election. 

Another proposal, in a country in which only 35 states currently require prospective voters to present identification before voting, is to require voters to present a photo ID at their polling place.  

In October 2022, a Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ poll conducted in six states—Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas—found that around three quarters of voters (69%-75%) would support voters being required to provide photo ID to vote in all state and federal elections. In the same poll, between 79% and 92% thought voters voting by mail should be required to provide identifying information along with their ballot. 

Importantly, however, between 65% and 76% also said they would support their state offering to provide any registered voter with a photographic voter ID card free of charge, reducing the barriers to lower propensity voters from getting identification.

 No matter how popular, any of these changes will require the support of both parties. 

On that front, the odds of progress are slim. Democrats have traditionally opposed making possession of a photo ID a requirement to vote. Republicans have blocked previous attempts to make election day a Federal Holiday.

In fact, rather than seeing the events of the 2020 election as an incentive to come together and preempt future election disputes, both sides of the coming Presidential contest appear to see an electoral benefit in portraying the other as a threat to democracy.

As it stands, the climate of distrust has reached such a point that 47% of Americans in December thought it was likely that one or both of Republicans and Democrats will try to cheat in the 2024 Presidential Election. Majorities of both Trump (55%) and Biden (52%) voters at the last election think the prospect of cheating by one or both of the parties is likely.

Will courageous political leaders see what the polling tells us so clearly and take action or must it take yet another dangerously disputed election for political leaders to be cajoled into addressing all voters’ growing distrust in the electoral process?

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

Will the Abortion Vote Help Democrats Flip Florida in 2024?
New York Magazine | 2 April 2024

Poll suggests Welsh Government wrong about one key 20mph prediction
Wales Online | 1 April 2024

Labour is more trusted on defence than the Tories: Poll reveals voters now associate Conservatives with cutting military spending, not increasing it
Daily Mail | 29 March 2024

Keir Starmer makes £50 bet that Lee Anderson will lose his seat at the election
The Independent | 21 March 2024

Are you a journalist needing a stat for your latest piece? We can be your resource—our polling covers hundreds of issues in multiple countries each week. If you are working on an article on a topical issue, chances are we have already asked the public about it. Get in touch and we’ll share our polling data with you!

Numbers of the Week

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