State Policy Network
How to restore trust in elections in a hyper-partisan landscape

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of democracy. However, Americans have relatively low levels of confidence in our election system and are increasingly wary of partisan proposals to fix the issues. The lack of trust in our electoral process is the critical problem election integrity reform must address.

How confident are Americans in the election system?

State Policy Network, in partnership with Heart+Mind Strategies, conducted in-depth public opinion research on election integrity and reform in the first half of 2021. It revealed just 43% of Americans have a large degree of confidence in the current election system. More concerning is the fact that faith in the process is strongly related to the side that wins the election: 64% of Democrats felt a high level of confidence in our election system in early 2021 as Joe Biden settled in to office compared to just 20% of Republicans. Independents are generally skeptical; just 35% expressed a high level of confidence in the American election system despite saying in the survey they had voted for Biden by a 2-to-1 margin.

Additional data shows this is a long-term pattern. The MIT Election Data and Science Lab shows confidence in accurate vote counting plummets among partisans when their candidate loses a Presidential election and skyrockets when they win.

Source:, Data from Survey of the Performance of American Elections

Americans support election reforms that promote accountability and consistency

Election process reformers may always have to contend with a partisan backdrop, but there are certain fixes that most Americans—from all parties—can get behind, even after the tumultuous 2020 election. Although partisans may struggle to agree on what the laws should be, most Americans strongly concur that officials who break current law should be swiftly and significantly punished. More of these consequences can be codified in states and localities.

Establishing transparent, consistent guidelines and formal training for poll workers also boosts trust in the election system. It is confusing to many Americans why election machines don’t already employ state-of-the-art technology and best practices in tech security. With 84% of all registered voters supporting upgrades to voting equipment and databases, many states could restore Americans’ confidence simply by improving the tools that go into the election process.

These common-ground solutions frequently gain less attention than fiery debates about voter ID, mail-in ballots, or automatic registration, so reformers must make the effort to inform voters when these meaningful changes are made.

Percentage Support for Election Reforms by Partisan Affiliation

Immediate common-ground election reforms will reap long-term benefits

Our election system needs reform. While many key reforms will require across-the-aisle cooperation and persuasion, several critical fixes can be implemented now, backed by the majority of all Americans. Working to enact these popular, bipartisan reforms will show voters who is serious about election reform and who is simply looking to help shore up the next win at the ballot box. Building trust with voters in this way has a long-term payoff—both in improving our election system and being regarded as the credible side on more contentious reform efforts down the line.

Policy Issues: Elections and Voting
Organization: State Policy Network