Commentary

Political Leanings Affect News Habits, Opinions On Mail-In Voter Fraud

With Election Day about six weeks away, Americans are starting to pay more attention to the candidates and issues. Partisanship continues to affect people's preferred news source, opinions about issues and whether they trust journalists, the latest Pew Research Center survey indicates.

The differing perceptions about the reliability of mail-in voting are particularly worrisome, given that any inkling of ballot fraud could undermine any candidate's claim to victory. Forty-three percent of Republicans and independents who lean right said fraud has been a major problem in presidential elections. That percentage is four times higher than for Democrats and people who lean left.

President Trump has voice repeated objections to mail-in voting, and those claims affect the perceptions of some Republicans. Sixty-one percent of Republicans who said the Trump campaign is a major source of election news see voter fraud as a problem, compared with only 36% of Republicans who don't rely on Trump for news.

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Most Democrats tend to say voter fraud isn't a problem, including those who depend on the Joe Biden campaign for news, Pew found.

Both Republicans and Democrats with a more varied media diet tend to perceive mail-in voting differently. News outlets tend to reinforce people's ideas about issues.

Sixty-one percent of Republicans whose only major sources of election news are those with right-leaning audiences -- namely, talk radio and Fox News -- described mail-in voter fraud as a major problem. Conversely, only 23% of Republicans who don't rely on those media outlets for news said the same, according to Pew.

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats whose only major sources of election news are those with left-leaning audiences – that is, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post– said mail-in voter fraud isn't a problem at all, compared with only 35% of Democrats who somehow managed to avoid all those news outlets.

Unfortunately, many Americans are coming across lots of misinformation, with 69% of adults saying they have seen "completely made-up news" about the election.

Many people tend to blame political leaders and activists for fake news, but there are differences by party. More than half of Republicans blame journalists for made-up news, compared with only 9% of Democrats. That trust gap is also worrisome as voters try to separate fact from fiction.

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