A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds that 3 in 4 voters are concerned about the possibility of violence. Only 1 in 4 say they are “very confident” that there will be a peaceful transfer of power if President Donald Trump loses to Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
The findings, released Thursday, underscore the challenges the eventual winner might face following the election.
“To use the word ‘coup’ in the United States just seems like such a foreign concept when we’re supposed to be this beacon of democracy,” said Alaine Duncan, an acupuncturist who lives just outside Washington DC.
“But it doesn’t seem like we’re being a beacon of democracy right now,” he told NPR.
Since the 2016 election, confidence in America’s ability to have a peaceful transfer of power has eroded, perhaps because President Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to that.
At this point in 2016, 40 percent of Americans were “very confident” about a peaceful transfer of power.
Now just 23 percent express the same sentiment, according to the poll.
“Voters on both sides traditionally expect a trick-or-treat on Election Day,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, told USA Today. “In this election, there is a much deeper fear of violence not only on Election Day, but for many days thereafter.”
Election observers say one likely scenario is for President Trump to declare victory—before the election has been called either way—and point to any later shift as evidence of fraud.
For months, Trump has alleged that the election is riddled with widespread fraud, accusing the Democrats of trying to steal the election through mail-in voting.
The Trump campaign has been calling on supporters to join an “army of poll watchers,” part of an effort to find evidence to back up the president’s claims about voter fraud.
A contested vote could set off a constitutional crisis that would place the fate of the presidency in the hands of the courts, state politicians and Congress.
Democrats are concerned that extremist elements with Trump’s base, including armed militias and white supremacists, resort to violence if the election does not go their way.
Activists on the left have also launched their own “Stopping the Coup” campaign, urging quick action if President Trump tries to claim a false victory.
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have recently pleaded with the military to respect a peaceful transfer of power and police forces across America have taken steps to brace for potential disruption at the polls.
Biden holds a steady 8-point lead over Trump in the nationwide poll at 52 percent to 44 percent, the survey has found. The results reflect those of the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey of likely voters that puts Biden ahead of Trump at 54 percent to 46 percent.
More than 80 million Americans have already cast their ballot in early voting. Millions more are expect to vote between now and Election Day.
According to a CNN poll released on Wednesday, Biden is leading among early voters 64 percent to 34 percent.