Many voters believe that the very fate of the nation’s system of government is at stake in this year’s midterm elections. To examine these beliefs, we asked voters in Pennsylvania: “Which of the following political figures represents a threat to American democracy?”
As with the poll’s other questions, partisanship emerged as a major factor: Democrats overwhelmingly selected Republicans Trump, Mastriano, and Oz as threats while Republicans selected Democrats Biden and Fetterman. Interestingly, 56% of Republican respondents selected Republican Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), a Trump critic, as a threat to democracy. Overall, Republicans were least likely to select Josh Shapiro among the Democrats on the list. In fact, Republican respondents viewed Shapiro as less of a threat than Liz Cheney. Meanwhile, Cheney was the Republican who drew the least concern among Democrats.
In a negatively polarized environment where 87% of Democrats view Donald Trump—still the top-polling Republican candidate—as a threat to democracy and 80% of Republicans similarly view Joe Biden, many voters clearly believe the other party is unacceptable. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to convince voters to consider voting across party lines and campaigns can make only a limited difference. If Fetterman wins the Pennsylvania Senate race despite his poor debate performance, he likely can thank this feature of contemporary American politics.