Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans say they will not vote for any candidate who admits Biden won 'fair and square'

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·West Coast Correspondent
·4 min read
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Joe Biden, with one hand on a Bible held by his wife and the other hand raised, is sworn in president.
Joe Biden is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters)

Despite a mountain of evidence showing the 2020 presidential contest wasn’t rigged against Donald Trump, nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (57 percent) now say they will not vote in upcoming elections for any candidate who admits that Joe Biden won the presidency "fair and square."

Only 17 percent say they would consider voting for a candidate who accurately characterizes Biden’s victory as legitimate.

These numbers underscore the degree to which Trump’s “big lie” claiming Biden cheated his way into the White House — a falsehood that three-quarters of Trump voters (74 percent) now believe — has become a litmus test for the entire GOP, crowding out other issues and strengthening Trump’s grip on the party ahead of the 2022 midterms.

For his part, Trump has made it clear that supporting his election fabrications is key to his own personal endorsement. Indeed, the former president is backing primary candidates against state officials who bucked his attempts to overturn the election.

The poll data also helps explain why Republican presidential hopefuls such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now want to spend millions of dollars on special “election crimes” police units tasked with finding fraud where they previously insisted there was none.

“The way Florida did it, I think, inspired confidence,” DeSantis said immediately after the 2020 election. “That’s how elections should be run.”

The survey of 1,568 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Jan. 20 to 24, found that when asked which issue they want future candidates to focus on the most, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who say “stopping Democrats from rigging and stealing elections” (17 percent) — something that Democrats are not doing — is statistically equivalent to the share who say “bringing down inflation” (19 percent).

A flag reads: Stop the Steal.
A flag at a campaign rally with President Donald Trump and Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Dalton, Ga., on Jan. 4, 2021, the eve of Georgia's Senate runoff election. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Other core conservative policies don’t even come close: “ending COVID restrictions” (10 percent), “fighting crime” (8 percent), “outlawing abortion” (5 percent), “cutting taxes” (5 percent), “appointing Supreme Court justices” (2 percent) and “giving parents more controls over schools” (2 percent). Only “securing the border” (23 percent) ranks higher.

Likewise, if the GOP wins control of Congress in November, 56 percent of Republicans say they want the party to launch yet another investigation of the 2020 presidential election — twice the number (28 percent) who say the opposite.

Trump remains the GOP’s most powerful and influential figure. Looking ahead, 56 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners say Trump’s endorsement is more important than that of “other Republican leaders” (23 percent) when they are deciding how to vote. Half (50 percent) say Trump was “the best Republican president” — far better than George H.W. Bush (4 percent) and his son George W. Bush (9 percent), and significantly better even than conservative icon Ronald Reagan (37 percent). Eighty-two percent rate Trump favorably, and 83 percent say they would vote for him in a rematch with Biden.

For the broader population of voters, Biden's job approval rating continues to sink. Fifty-three percent of Americans disapprove of how he’s handling the presidency, compared with 40 percent who approve, and a mere 2 points now separate him (42 percent) and Trump (40 percent) in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. In the Dec. 13 Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Biden (45 percent) led Trump (38 percent) by 7.

President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to Congress in 2018 as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud.
Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30, 2018. (Win McNamee/Pool via Reuters)

There are signs that at least some Republicans are open to alternatives to Trump. More than a quarter (27 percent) say he should not run again. Sixteen percent say they would consider voting for centrist West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin if he were to run for president as an independent, more than the number of Democrats (10 percent) or independents (15 percent) who say the same. And 21 percent already say they would vote for DeSantis over Trump in the GOP primary; other potential candidates — including former Vice President Mike Pence (6 percent), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (6 percent) and Fox News host Tucker Carlson (2 percent) — combine for another 19 percent of the vote, and 12 percent say they’re not sure.

DeSantis’s unfavorable rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (12 percent) is also lower than Trump’s (15 percent). More than half (51 percent) rate the Florida governor “very” favorably, on par with the far more familiar Trump (57 percent).

As a result, less than half of Republicans and GOP-aligned independents (46 percent) currently say they would vote for Trump in the 2024 GOP primaries. Still, it’s worth noting how close that number is to the 45 percent of the popular vote that Trump won across all Republican primaries in 2016 — enough to secure him the nomination and ultimately propel him to the White House.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,568 U.S. adults interviewed online from Jan. 20 to 24, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8 percent.

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