Politics & society

Berkeley poll: Most Californians fear disputed election, post-vote violence

By Edward Lempinen

informal headshots of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (left) and incumbent Republican Donald Trump
The country is so closely divided, and the indictments of former President Donald Trump are so unprecedented, that predicting the outcome of a rematch with President Joe Biden is “a little bit reckless,” Schnur said. (Photos by Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
informal headshots of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (left) and incumbent Republican Donald Trump

With just days until the election, a new Berkeley IGS Poll of likely California voters finds that the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, leads Republican President Donald Trump by a margin of more than two-to-one. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0)

Large majorities of Californians are worried that many Americans will not respect the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election — and that the conflicts could lead to violence, according to a new poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS).

In all, 40% of the likely voters surveyed in the Berkeley IGS Poll doubt the election will be conducted fairly. Doubts are especially strong among supporters of President Donald Trump, with 56% questioning whether the election will be fair and 78% expressing less confidence in voting by mail.

“The lack of public confidence that all votes will be counted and that both parties will respect the election outcome are worrisome signs of a political system that is under unusual stress,” said Eric Schickler, a Berkeley political scientist and co-director of IGS.

Concern about legitimacy and the post-election aftermath were widespread among poll respondents. In all, 87% of voters expressed worry that the outcome will not be accepted by other voters. And 88% said violence is somewhat or very likely in the event of disputes about accuracy of the vote.

Among Trump supporters, 53% responded that violence is “very likely,” compared to 40% of those who support former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate. Similarly, 54% of voters aged 18 to 29 were more likely to expect violence, with that worry dropping among older voters.

The new IGS poll was administered online in English and Spanish between Oct. 16 and 21, 2020, among 6,686 California registered voters, of whom 5,352 were considered likely to vote or had already voted in this year’s election. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.

Earlier this week, the Berkley IGS Poll released two additional surveys:

The 2020 presidential race: Biden is leading Trump in California 65% to 29%, a margin of better than two-to-one. If that holds, the poll report said , the outcome would represent the largest margin of victory in a California presidential contest since 1920, when Republican Warren Harding defeated Democrat James Cox by 42 percentage points.

State ballot propositions: Likely voters are closely divided on two of the most prominent ballot initiatives, the Berkeley IGS Poll found .

By a margin of 49% to 42%, they favor Proposition 15, but the lead has narrowed since the last poll in September. Proposition 15 would be the first major retreat from California’s historic Proposition 13, changing tax codes to raise property taxes on big businesses and thereby producing billions in new funding for schools and local governments.

Meanwhile, 46% of the respondents were voting yes on Proposition 22, versus 42% who oppose the measure. Proposition 22, backed by Uber, Lyft and other leaders of the gig economy, proposes to maintain the status of drivers as independent contractors. Should the measure lose, the drivers could be classified as employees and would be eligible for employee benefits, but they would have less flexibility in choosing where and when to work.

Learn more about the Berkeley IGS Poll.