The Lost Legitimacy of American Political Institutions? The Consequences of the 2020 Presidential Election

Project Date:
Feb 2021
Award Amount:

To what extent have our political institutions been damaged by the events surrounding the 2020 election? Political scientist James Gibson will assess the election’s consequences based on several surveys, beginning in July 2020.  RSF funds will be used for a third nationally representative survey to be fielded in February 2021, that will assess changes in attitudes toward the president/presidency, the Supreme Court, and the Senate from prior to the election through the immediate post-election period and concluding in the post-inauguration period. The survey will ask a fresh sample of respondents about their attitudes towards all three institutions, focusing on perceptions and evaluations of events from the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection onward. Gibson hypothesizes that those exposed to elite challenges to the legitimacy of institutions are more likely to be influenced by such challenges and therefore to withdraw legitimacy from the institution. Specifically, he expects that both awareness of and judgments about the key events in the 2020 presidential election will be associated with a decline in support for the Supreme Court, and lower levels of support for both the presidency and the Senate. He also expects that the insurrection may have reversed this trend, even among Republicans.


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