Fair or fraudulent?: Notre Dame political scientist examines public confidence in the 2022 midterm elections

Author: Brett Beasley

According to the Brookings Institution, the 2022 midterm elections “may well be the first elections ever where the elections themselves are on the ballot." More than 300 candidates running for office this month questioned the results of the 2020 presidential election, and many of those same candidates have not committed to accepting the results of their own races.

But what do the voters themselves think? Will the public say the winners came by their victories fairly or fraudulently? Thanks to new funding, Notre Dame political scientist Brian Fogarty will apply the tools of data science to find out. Fogarty will also identify ways to combat misperceptions about election fraud and restore confidence in American elections.

Fogarty, who serves as director of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Science Research and associate director of the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society, will work with political information experts from Dartmouth College and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Together, they'll focus on how claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election shape perceptions of fraud in the 2022 midterms.

Brian Fogarty
Political Scientist Brian Fogarty serves as director of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Science Research and associate director of the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society.

The project is one of 18 endeavors newly funded by the MIT Election Lab, with support from the Election Performance Project, LLC, a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Each project looks at the role of elections in the evolving landscape of American politics and considers ways to better understand and administer them.

Fogarty said the funding has enabled the team to carry out its study at a critical time when “the democratic norm of accepting the legitimacy of election results is under threat in America.”

“Immediately following the 2020 election, political rhetoric shifted away from false claims of individuals committing registration and voting fraud, and towards false claims about the integrity of election administration," said Fogarty. "This new funding from the MIT Election Lab allows us to assess the persistence of that narrative throughout the stages of the 2022 election and to respond to rapidly changing events on the ground in our research design and data collection procedures and measures.”

The study uses a multi-wave survey that asks about perceptions of election fraud, confidence in vote counting, and the acceptance of the election results. It also includes informational experiments, which will allow the team to evaluate several strategies for reducing misperceptions of election fraud. The researchers also have access to some data about respondents’ internet activity, which they'll use to examine whether online misinformation shaped participants' perceptions of election fraud and the legitimacy of the 2022 election.

The team will share practical recommendations based on its findings. Researchers aim to equip policymakers, election administrators, and journalists working to combat election misperceptions and bolster confidence in election outcomes.

“We hope to do more than just to contribute to scholarship on understanding the election fraud information environment," Fogarty said. "We also want to provide insight and solutions that can reverse the deterioration of democratic norms in contemporary American society.”


Brett Beasley / Writer and Editorial Program Manager

Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame

bbeasle1@nd.edu / +1 574-631-8183

research.nd.edu / @UNDResearch

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Originally published by Brett Beasley at research.nd.edu on November 08, 2022.