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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written on 12/3/20 by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Who Won the Election? Depends on Who You Voted For  - 12 4 2020 10 36 27 AM

Most Americans (73%) agree that Biden won the election, but Republicans are much more suspicious about his victory than Democrats or independents. Fully 52% of Republicans think that President Trump “rightfully won” the election, and 68% are concerned that the election was “rigged.” (Reuters)

NH: President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results have found no traction in court. But this means little to his core supporters, according to new surveys. When asked by Reuters/Ipsos, most Americans (73%) said they agree Biden won the election. But when asked if Biden had “rightfully won,” most Republicans disagree. Fully 52% of Republicans think that President Trump “rightfully won” the election. Only 29% said that Biden “rightfully won.” 

When asked why, 68% of Republicans cited concerns that the election was “rigged.” Only 16% of Democrats and one-third of independents share those concerns. 

Polls from the Pew Research Center, Vox, The Economist, and Politico/Morning Consult all tell a similar story. Republicans’ trust in the electoral system has nosedived since the election, while Democrats’ trust has surged. Democrats are more confident than they were in October that their votes were counted and that the election was administered well. For Republicans, it’s the opposite.

Prior to the election, we predicted that regardless of who won, the deep partisan divide would shape how voters saw the outcome. (See “America on the Verge of Civil War?” and “Growing Share of Voters Say Violence May Be ‘Justified.’”) Trump, in particular, has actively been encouraging his supporters to doubt the results for months. 

These kinds of partisan claims, while not as extreme as Trump’s, have become more common in recent years. In 2004, some Democratic activists argued that the election had been stolen from John Kerry. Earlier elections with far closer results--most notably, 2000 and 1960--sparked controversy, but nothing close to this level of rancor. Both Nixon and Gore conceded once the results had been finalized.

This time, the battle is far from over. Trump is already considering a 2024 run, which he would announce during Biden’s inauguration. This scenario would be bothersome for Democrats--but a nightmare for the GOP. Many Republican leaders dread a rerun by Trump, even if few of them openly say so. After all, what other choice do they have? If, say, 20% of the electorate would vote for Trump no matter what, any future national campaign by a GOP candidate not named Trump would face near-insuperable odds.

If it happens, a split between the Trump faithful and Never Trumpers would likely resemble several other historical crack-ups that delivered the nation to the other party. This would include the cleaving of the Republican Party in 1912 into Taft Republicans and Roosevelt Bull Moosers, which paved the way for Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Or the cleaving of the Whig Party in 1856, which pretty much destroyed what was left of the Whigs and helped elect Democrat James Buchanan. Or the cleaving of the Democratic Party into northern and southern halves in 1860, ushering in a victory for Republican Abraham Lincoln. We all know what happened after that.

Nothing is more dangerous for a party than the prospect of being split down the middle. Just ask the Democrats, who are now facing their own identity crisis of the old guard (Hillary/Obama) versus the new guard (Sanders/AOC). 

If Trump does plan to run again, his campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election makes a certain kind of sense. Populists live and die by the emotional intensity of their core supporters--and that intensity is always better fueled by outrage at your enemies than by satisfaction with your achievements.

While most Americans hold negative views of Trump's conduct since the election, support has only deepened among his base. Fully 65% of his voters say his post-election behavior has been “good” or “excellent,” which climbs to 79% among his most ardent supporters.

Who Won the Election? Depends on Who You Voted For  - 12 4 2020 10 36 27 AM

Who Won the Election? Depends on Who You Voted For  - Elec 1

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ABOUT NEIL HOWE

Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.