LA PLUS CA’ CHANGE – A DISTURBING LOOK AT WHAT REPUBLICANS THINK ABOUT THE ELECTION (Originally Published Dec.17, 2020; Republished Oct. 20, 2022)

OCTOBER 20, 2022

I published this article a few days after the Electoral College voted on Dec. 14th, 2020, to send Biden’s victory in the Presidential election to Congress. I looked at the polls showing the vast majority of Republicans did not believe Biden had won the election and remarked at how troubling that seemed- before Jan. 6th happened. With less than 3 weeks to the 2022 midterms, a poll last week showed 73% of Republicans did not believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the Presidential election.

In December 2020, this all seemed rather stunning. Now there are 370 election deniers on the ballot and who will win the midterms is going down to the wire. For Republicans, the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same, unfortunately.

I thought you might be interested in re-reading this.

DECEMBER 17,2020

It has been satisfying to see the Electoral College vote in the Biden-Harris ticket after the United States Supreme Court gave short shrift to the State of Texas lawsuit brought to overturn the election. There will probably be a diehard Republican challenge to Congress’ receipt of the Electoral College votes on Jan.6th, but with Senator McConnell’s belated acknowledgment of Joe Biden as President-Elect, that effort will fail. Joe Biden will make it to the Presidency on Jan. 20th, 2021.

My head has been going around in circles since the election, over the extent to which the Republican Party and the millions of people who comprise the Republican base have gone completely off the deep end in their angry repudiation of the results of the election. The belief that millions of illegal votes for Biden were cast and he did not legitimately win, in the face of rejection by court after court and despite recount after recount, is a mindset stunner even to people like myself who’ve spent their lives in politics and think they understand the power of the Trump/Republican/Fox News narrative.

There have actually been many polls asking questions about the fairness of the election since Nov. 3. A significant majority of the Republicans reject the Democratic victory, although some do acknowledge it, and I will attempt to interpret the meaning of them in this column. The attempt to understand this deserves some comment before I get to the polls.

We have to remind ourselves that the embedded anger of so many Republicans developed long before Trump arrived on the scene. Republicans who have been watching or listening to Fox News (and its right-wing cousins) every night for years have been “long gone” for a long time. As former Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman said, “They’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid.”

What happened with Donald Trump is that a dangerous but brilliant demagogue brought the politics of grievance to an extraordinary art form.

A major pollster, YouGov, has developed a polling archive for its questions. Take a look at the history of the response to this question, first for Registered Voters as a whole, and then for just Republicans, from Jan. 2017 to Dec. 2020.

Is Donald Trump honest and trustworthy, or not? All Registered Voters

The red line in the graph shows No, (Trump Is Not Honest and Trustworthy), the Blue line is Yes, (Trump is honest and trustworthy), and the gray line is Not Sure. The graph below is the same question, showing only responses for Republicans.

As you can see from the trend lines, from January 2017 to now, there has been little fluctuation on the question for all voters, as well as Republicans. For all voters, on December 5th, 2020, 36% thought Trump was honest and trustworthy and 56% did not think so. But for Republicans, on December 5th, 2020, 78% thought he was honest and trustworthy, and only 11% did not think so. 11% were not sure.

We can take it for granted that the Republican Attorneys General and House members who joined the Texas lawsuit were grandstanding and didn’t believe Trump had actually won the election. Instead, they were cynically pandering to the base and paying homage to Trump. Their shame is that they actually understand basic election processes and know the counts are accurate and Biden won. They believe that because they and President Trump easily won the vast majority of their own districts, that they could never face accountability for misleading millions of people or for an action that might lead to the destruction of American democracy.

Polls taken since the election have sometimes offered voters several choices on interpreting the results of the election; others have asked more stark questions. Taken as a whole, the polls since the election showed that about 30% of Republicans believe or acknowledge that Biden won the election.

This Reuters/Ipsos Poll, taken Nov. 13-17, of 1346 respondents, including 598 Democrats and 496 Republicans, asked who rightfully won the election.

Reuters/Ipsos Republicans Only
Trump Rightfully Won52%
Biden Rightfully Won29%

A Morning Consult poll, taken Nov.13-16,2020, included 663 Republicans out of 1994 registered voters. The question, “As far as you know, do you believe the 2020 Presidential election was a free and fair election? “, offered four choices for how people felt.

Yes, definitelyYes, probablyNo,prob.notNo,def.notDK
Morning Consult

Thirty percent of Republicans answered definitely or probably yes. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans said definitely or probably no, including 44% who said definitely no.

Three polls have asked whether Trump should concede or not, one taken shortly after the election, one in early December, and one just completed on Dec. 11th. The first, from Global Strategy Group, taken from Nov.10-12 with 984 Registered voters, broke down the question, “Do you think Donald Trump should concede the election right now,” into four responses:

In this early poll, 22% of Trump voters as of Nov. 12 (shortly after Pennsylvania was called for Biden, assuring his victory) thought Trump should concede. 45% felt strongly he should not concede, and 19% felt somewhat that he should not concede. 14% weren’t sure.

The second poll, taken by The Marist Poll, from Dec.1-6,2020, of 916 Registered Voters, asked, “Do you think Donald Trump should formally concede to Joe Biden, or not? “

Marist PollYesNo Unsure
Marist Poll

A third poll, taken by CBS News from Dec. 8-11, (3 of 4 days before Supreme Ct. rejection of Texas suit), with 2, 223 RV, asked this question about concession:

If the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, as expected, what should Donald Trump do then?

2020 VOTETOTALBidenTrump
Concede and help with transition759851
Not Concede, and do everything to try to remain another term25249
CBS News Poll


Fox News took a poll dated Dec.6-9,2020, with 1007 Registered Voters that presents a stark and direct question: “Do you believe the Presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump or not?”

Don’t Know1129

A Quinnipiac Poll taken Dec. 1-7, with 978 Registered Voters, asked another stark question: “Do you think Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 Presidential Election is legitimate or not? “

Not Legitimate3427030
Quinnipiac Poll

A CBS News Poll, taken Dec 8-11 among over 2,200 RV, had an even more stark response among Republican voters. Three of the four days (Dec.8-10) preceded the Supreme Court decision rejecting the Texas lawsuit.

CBS DEC.8-11
Yes, Legitimate10018962365
No, Not Legitimate08247735
CBS News Poll

82% of Trump supporters and 77% of Republicans said Biden was not legitimate.

CBS asked responders who said Biden was not legitimate why they thought so, and received this response:


Several polls asked Republicans to categorize their feelings, such as, whether they felt definitely or probably that the election was fair or not, or, should Trump concede now, do you feel this way strongly or somewhat? The separation produced similar results in the strength of feeling. I also add in a Reuters Poll Response:

The Election was not Fair- Definitely- 44%.

Trump Should Not Concede Now- Feel Strongly -45%.

Reuters Poll- Trump Rightfully Won-52%.

CBS Poll- Trump Should Not Concede Even after the Electoral College Vote-49%

The Election Was Not Fair-Probably- 23%.

Trump should not Concede Now-Feel that Way Somewhat-19%.

Coursing through the responses to the four polls, they show that the percentage of Republicans who feel Trump rightfully won the election, who feel definitely the election was unfair, or who felt strongly Trump should not concede, not even after the Electoral College vote, hover around 50%. The percentage of Republicans who seem to acknowledge Biden won, or who say the election was fair of that Trump should concede, hover around 30%. The remainder- 20%- said they thought the election was probably unfair, or felt somewhat, that Trump should concede.

The polls that offered stark choices on attitudes toward the election, such as,  “Was the election stolen from Trump?“, or,“ Is Biden legitimate or not? “, one saw much stronger responses for Trump, moving to 70% or even 80%. The CBS Poll where Trump supporters said Biden was not legitimate (82%), did attempt to differentiate the response with a follow-up question, solely among the respondents who had said Biden was not legitimate. Of that group, 18% gave a reason OTHER THAN WIDESPREAD FRAUD, such as “the election has not been fully investigated as much as you would like.“ After removing the group that had the more mixed response, the remaining Trump supporters who said Biden was not legitimate would still be a substantial 66%.

Quinnipiac and Fox News asked Registered Voters if Donald Trump should run for President in 2024. The responses ONLY FROM REPUBLICANS sums up the strength of their feeling for him:

Fox News71218
Quinnipiac/Fox News Poll

The high and severe levels of the repudiation of the results of the election by most of the members of one of the only two major political parties in the United States is a deep long-term problem for the future of democracy here. It is not fixable short-term. It was great that 81 million people were motivated to vote Democratic and Trump was beaten. Who will be more motivated to vote, versus who will be less motivated to vote, in the off-year in 2022 when Trump is not on the ballot, is not known right now. But the Democrats can’t stop organizing.

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years and retired at the end of 2016. He chaired four committees, including the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions for six years, the Committee on Cities for five years, and the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for six years. There are 96 Brennan laws on the books of the State of New York and Jim won three national awards for his legislative work during his career.

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