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Neutralizing Trump’s Big Lies

Donald Trump’s falsehoods about the federal case against him threaten to undermine public confidence in law enforcement, just as his lies about the 2020 presidential election undermined confidence in America’s democratic process. But one under-appreciated recent polling trend suggests that reason and truth could still prevail.

CHICAGO – With the federal indictment of Donald Trump, the former US president is doubling down on divisive rhetoric. America is thus at the start of another depressing chapter of in a seemingly never-ending war of narratives. A June 7-10 CBS/YouGov poll found that only 38% of likely Republican voters view Trump’s mishandling of classified documents as a national-security risk, compared to 80% across other voter blocs.

Trump’s falsehoods about the case threaten to undermine public confidence in federal law enforcement, just as his insistence that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” undermined confidence in the integrity of America’s democratic process. Fortunately, shifts in public opinion about the 2020 election point to effective strategies for resisting attacks on core democratic institutions.

To be sure, polls have shown that roughly two-thirds of Republican voters think Joe Biden lost the election and prevailed only through fraud. This lie drove Trump supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Republican-controlled states to enact laws restricting ballot access in the name of countering voter fraud (a problem that has been shown to be extraordinarily rare). But tucked away in polling data is a little-noticed fact: Over time, more Republican voters have come to doubt Trump’s election lie, and have accepted Biden as the rightful president.