Public Opinion Roots of Election Denialism

47 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2023

See all articles by Charles Stewart III

Charles Stewart III

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: January 4, 2023


Although the hardest dividing line between those who accept the election of Joe Biden as legitimate is partisan, there is still variation within the Republican Party between those who accept the 2020 election and those who do not. Among those who do not accept the outcome, they differ as to why. This paper examines the public opinion antecedents of election denialism, focusing especially on the roles of Christian nationalism, conspiracism, racial resentment, and ideology. Analyzing data drawn from a multi-state study of primary voting in 2022, I find that half the zero-order difference between Democrats and Republicans (and between Democrats and independents) can be accounted for by these covariates, among a few others. Among Republicans, conspiracism has a potent effect on embracing election denialism, followed by racial resentment. Among independents, the strongest influences on denialism are Christian nationalism and racial resentment. And, although election denialism is rare among Democrats, what variation does exist is mostly explained by levels of racial resentment. The results, if confirmed by analysis on nationally representative samples, are important not only for understanding one of the most important phenomena in contemporary American politics, but for considering how to combat misinformation over the conduct of elections.

Keywords: Election denial, Christian nationalism, racial resentment, conspiracism, trust in elections

Suggested Citation

Stewart III, Charles, Public Opinion Roots of Election Denialism (January 4, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Charles Stewart III (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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