Well, now it is clear that the shoe is on the other foot. The 2020 election (and its aftermath) shows that Republicans live in as much of a political bubble as Democrats do — and not only that, but plenty of Republicans would much rather live in that bubble than in reality.
Heading into the election, it became obvious that Republicans were going to be very surprised if President-elect Joe Biden emerged victorious.
A September Gallup poll revealed, for example, that 90% of Republicans thought Trump would win. It’s not unusual that partisans believe their side is more likely to win or not. What was unusual was that the side who was trailing in the polls was more likely to believe that they would win than the other side. In this poll, for example, just 73% of Democrats believed Biden was more likely to win.
The horse-race polling, of course, had Biden ahead of Trump. Republicans refused to believe the polling, which, while far from perfect, should have led you to believe that Biden was up.
Some of the disbelief that Biden was ahead likely had to do with a mistrust of polling after the 2016 election, which Trump took despite facing a polling deficit.
Some of it, though, likely had to do with Republicans living in their own bubble. The majority of Trump-backers (59%) indicated in a Pew Research Center poll this summer that a lot of their close friends backed Trump. That’s more than the 48% of Biden-backers who said a lot of their close friends backed Biden. The vast majority (77%) of both sides’ supporters said they knew few or no backers of the candidate they opposed.
But even after the election, many Republicans refuse to believe that Trump lost this election fair and square. A majority (52%) of Republicans said Trump rightfully won in a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in mid-November. The vast majority of 2020 Trump voters (77%) told Monmouth University that Biden only won the election because of voter fraud. Just 11% said he won it fair and square.
While some Democrats definitely questioned the legitimacy of Trump as president after 2016, those complaints often had more to do with Trump’s perceived unpresidential personality or Russian interference in the lead-up to the election. That is, they usually did not have to do with the mechanics of the vote count of his election. Most Democrats viewed the election that got Trump to the White House as legitimate.
Indeed, there wasn’t anywhere near the same number of high-profile Democrats who wouldn’t call Trump the president-elect after the 2016 election. Remember, there was a real question as to whether the Michigan Board of State Canvassers would actually vote to certify Biden’s more than 100,000 vote win in the state.
It’s worth noting that it’s now December, and Trump still has not conceded this election. He put out a video on Facebook continuing to claim without any evidence that the election was taken from him. There’s no precedent for what Trump is doing in modern presidential history.
Many Republican voters seem not only willing to buy in on the lie that Biden’s victory was somehow fraudulent, but they are actively seeking out information that gives them hope that it was.
You only have to look at the viewer increase for Newsmax. The Newsmax cable channel was an afterthought for most before the 2020 election. It averaged less than 50,000 viewers earlier this year. But after it waited for weeks to call the election for Biden (long after the major cable news and network channels), viewership skyrocketed to upwards of more than 1 million viewers at times.
Republicans can continue to argue, if they wish, that their Democratic counterparts are the only ones who want to live in a “bubble.” It just becomes difficult to see how they can do it with a straight face.