American Government and Politics

American Voters Do Punish Overt Undemocratic Behavior at the Polls: Natural Experimental Evidence from the 2021 Insurrection of the U.S. Capitol

Authors

Abstract

Existing research suggests that overt undemocratic behavior by elected officials is insufficiently punished by American voters to electorally discourage democratic backsliding. Evidence for this proposition comes primarily from hypothetical survey experiments with relatively weak treatments. I test this hypothesis using a natural experiment with a powerful treatment: Donald Trump's incitement of the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The insurrection was unexpected to the general public, did not coincide with other events that could plausibly affect public opinion, and occurred while Gallup was conducting a nationally representative survey using random digit dialing. Comparing vote choice intention among respondents that were interviewed just before, and just after, the insurrection occurred suggests that the insurrection caused a 10.8% decline in support for the Republican Party, and an 8.4% increase in support for the Democratic Party. Politicians interested in winning elections have strong incentives to avoid insurrection-like events from occurring.

Version notes

Shortened manuscript and changed title.

Content

Thumbnail image of Do American Voters Really Not Punish Overt Authoritarian Behavior at the Polls.pdf

Comments

Log in or register with APSA to comment
Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] – please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .