Stable Views in a Time of Tumult: Assessing Trends in American Public Opinion, 2007-2020

17 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021 Last revised: 20 Apr 2022

Date Written: January 6, 2022


The violent conclusion of Trump's 2017-2021 presidency has produced sobering reassessments of American democracy. Elected officials' actions necessarily implicate public opinion, but to what extent did Trump's presidency and its anti-democratic efforts reflect shifts in public opinion in prior years? Were there attitudinal changes that served as early-warning signs? We answer those questions via a 15-wave, population-based panel spanning 2007 to 2020. Specifically, we track attitudes on system legitimacy and election fairness, assessments of Trump and other politicians, and open-ended explanations of vote choice and party perceptions. Across measures, there was little movement in public opinion foreshadowing Trump's norm-upending presidency, although levels of out-party animus were consistently high. Recent shifts in public opinion were thus not a primary engine of the Trump presidency's anti-democratic efforts or their violent conclusion. Such stability suggests that understanding the precipitating causes of those efforts requires attention to other actors, including activists and elites.

Keywords: American public opinion, system legitimacy, racial prejudice, ideological extremity

JEL Classification: H00

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J., Stable Views in a Time of Tumult: Assessing Trends in American Public Opinion, 2007-2020 (January 6, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States


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