A Majority of Republicans and Democrats Expect a Contested Election, Increased Racial Tensions, Violence, and Economic Upheaval

Cheskie Rosenzweig, MS

By Cheskie Rosenzweig, MS, Leib Litman, PhD, Aaron Moss, PhD, Jonathan Robinson, PhD, Adam Dietrich & Shalom Jaffe

As the 2020 Presidential election nears its end, conversations about a contested election are picking up. According to the Washington Post and other news organizations, both the Trump and Biden campaigns are hiring teams of lawyers in anticipation of legal challenges after Election Day. New data gathered by CloudResearch.com quantifies how much the American people share concerns about a contested election and what consequences people think a contested election might have. 

According to a CloudResearch.com poll taken in early October, people across the political divide expect disagreement about the outcome of the Presidential election.

Will the Election Be Contested?

  • 75.7% of those surveyed reported that Trump and Biden will disagree about the results of the election.
  • When asked “If Donald Trump loses the election fairly, do you believe he will still contest the results?” 48.9% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats reported that they believe he will.
    • When asked the same about Biden if he loses fairly, 56% of Republicans and just 22% of Democrats believed Biden would contest such an outcome.
  • Despite expectations of a contested election, people still predict that their candidate will “win by a clear margin” with 83.1% of Republicans predicting Trump and 77.1% of Democrats predicting Biden will “win by a clear margin.” Together with people’s expectations that the election will be contested, this finding may reveal that people generally expect that the other side’s claims to having won the election will be baseless.

People believe a contested election will pose a great threat to life in the U.S. About equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans expect increased racial tension, violence in the streets, and economic upheaval. 

What Are Americans Afraid of in the Event of a Contested Election?

  • 79.8% of Democrats and 67.1% of Republicans believe that “The future of the U.S. would be at stake” 
  • “Increased racial tensions” are expected by 75.7% of Democrats and 67.3% of Republicans
  • “Increased violence in the streets” expected by 72.5% of Democrats and 71.7% of Republicans
  • “Economic Upheaval” expected by 55.4% of Republicans and 62.8% of Democrats
  • “Stock market drop” expected by 62.9% of Republicans and 56.9% of Democrats

Most people would agree that 2020 has been a bewildering year. A contested Presidential election would only add to the chaos. Unsettlingly, large majorities of people within our surveys reported that they expect disagreements about the outcome of the Presidential contest and that such a disagreement would likely exacerbate much of the social unrest 2020 has already created.   


Results based on an online survey of 800 U.S. adults by CloudResearch.com on Oct. 1-2, 2020. Data were collected using CloudResearch’s Prime Panels, a platform that incorporates data quality checks in sample recruitment and sources participants from an aggregate of online research panels (Chandler et al., 2019). Participants were matched to the U.S. population on gender, age, race, ethnicity, education, income and political-party affiliation. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.


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