Uncharted Territory: The Aftermath of Presidential Indictments
Bright Line Watch June/July 2023 surveys

American politics finds itself at a cross­roads in both the Biden pres­i­den­cy and the aftermath of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Last November’s midterm elections delivered a Republican House majority, reestab­lish­ing divided gov­ern­ment and cur­tail­ing the burst of leg­isla­tive activity that marked the end of 2022. The field of Republican pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates has mush­roomed but formal debates will not begin until late summer. Most notably, former president Donald Trump’s legal morass has deepened as inves­ti­ga­tions into his conduct advance. In April 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on charges related to his payment of hush money to an adult film star during the 2016 election campaign. In June, Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump on his handling of clas­si­fied documents after leaving office. In mid-July, Trump received a “target letter” from Smith pointing toward a likely indict­ment related to the aftermath of the 2020 election and the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The inves­ti­ga­tion by Fulton County, Georgia district attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s efforts to alter that state’s 2020 election results could result in further criminal charges.

In this context, and with attention to the potential impli­ca­tions of these devel­op­ments for the per­for­mance of American democracy, we fielded parallel surveys of 569 political sci­en­tists and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sample of 2,776 Americans from June 29-July 11, 2023. Given the impor­tance of precisely measuring Republican per­cep­tions of topics such as the 2020 election and pros­e­cu­tions of Trump, the public survey included an over­sam­ple of Republicans. The sample as a whole is weighted to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the American public. 

Our key findings are the following:

Perceptions of Trump investigations

  • Few Republicans believe former president Trump committed crimes in attempting to overturn the 2020 election (13%), in the events around January 6, 2021 (11%), and in falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments (15%). A somewhat larger minority (25%) believes he committed a crime in his handling of classified documents. By contrast, experts overwhelmingly believe Trump committed crimes in each of these cases (73–94%). Finally, fewer than half of all independents believe a crime was committed in each of these cases (37–46%) while Democrats overwhelmingly believe crimes were committed in each case (75–84%). 

  • However, GOP beliefs that Trump violated the law in handling classified materials have risen sharply since Special Counsel Jack Smith issued detailed indictments in June 2023. The extensively documented charges about classified materials also appear to have raised the bar for establishing criminality. Respondents who were asked to consider other allegations after considering the documents charges (rather than before) were less likely to view Trump’s other actions as criminal.

  • Among Republicans, there is little support for punishment of any sort including fines or probation; majorities of partisan independents also oppose punishment. By contrast, most political science experts, and most Democrats, support prison as a punishment for Trump if allegations about classified documents, seeking to overturn the 2020 election, or involvement in January 6 events are proven true. 

  • Republicans overwhelmingly endorse the proposition that Trump is being singled out for prosecution on the hush money charges (84%) and the indictment related to classified materials (82%) and that others would not be charged under similar circumstances. Among partisan independents, majorities (53% and 50%, respectively) also hold this belief, whereas far fewer Democrats do (29% and 20%). Experts are skeptical of double standard claims overall, but more than twice as many say the hush money charges would not be brought against someone else (32%) compared to the classified documents charges (15%).

  • With regard to the specific components of the classified materials indictment, political science experts and Democrats are nearly unanimous that Trump brought classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, stored them in unsecured locations, showed them to people without security clearance, and attempted to obstruct the federal investigation into the matter. Solid majorities of partisan independents also regard each charge as true. A bare majority of Republicans judges the first charge (transporting classified documents) to be true as well. Experts and Democrats support prison as punishment for these specific documents charges, as do narrower majorities of independents. Republicans are less apt to support prison but more amenable to fines or probation.

  • Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say that the next Republican president should prosecute Joe Biden and other Democrats in response to the current indictments against Trump.

Perceptions of pres­i­den­tial elections

  • Beliefs that Biden was the rightful winner of the 2020 election remain deeply polarized by partisanship. Among partisan independents, recognition of Biden’s win has risen in 2023, from 57% to 64%. However, a prior trend toward increasing GOP recognition of Biden’s win (from lower levels) has flattened. Within the GOP, recognition is far higher among those who characterize themselves more as supporters of the party than of Trump than among those whose primary loyalty is to Trump. 

  • Beliefs in unsupported narratives about election fraud in the 2016 presidential election are persistent among both Democrats and Republicans. Democratic beliefs that Russia tampered with votes to help Trump win are higher now than they were at the end of 2016.

  • Beliefs about January 6, 2021 are deeply and increasingly polarized. Democrats – and, to a lesser degree, partisan independents – regard the events at the U.S. Capitol as a riot and an insurrection. Among Republicans, nearly 60% characterize January 6 as legitimate protest.

Perceptions of threats to democracy

  • Our political science experts are increasingly sanguine about U.S. democracy, rating its overall performance above 70 on a 100-point scale for the first time since we began asking in February 2017. Among the public, by contrast, assessments of U.S. democracy have fallen since our last survey in November 2022 (including among both Democrats and Republicans).

  • Experts regard a potential Trump nomination as the greatest current threat to American democracy and regard recent indictments of Trump as beneficial for our democracy.

  • No group – experts, Democrats, Republicans, or independents – supports altering news coverage to limit Trump’s media platform. A plurality of each believes  Trump should be covered like other presidential candidates.

  • Experts regard several recent events (including Trump’s vow to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” Joe Biden if he is re-elected) as both important and abnormal, but none are rated as comparable to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election or his actions on January 6, 2021.

  • We find no evidence that the academic experts who are likely to code the status of democracies around the world are more pessimistic on average than those experts  who do not participate in such surveys. 


Investigations and indict­ments of Donald Trump

Perceptions of Trump investigations

Former president Trump faces state charges in New York for allegedly fal­si­fy­ing business records to cover up a hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 pres­i­den­tial campaign. He also faces federal charges for willfully retaining and mis­han­dling clas­si­fied documents after leaving the White House in January 2021. Both cases are pending and may not go to trial before the November 2024 election. In addition to these indict­ments, Trump is under inves­ti­ga­tion at the state and federal level for his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial election and his role in the events of January 6, 2021. Further indict­ments appear likely.

In October 2022, we probed expert and public attitudes toward the inves­ti­ga­tions that were most salient at the time —  the inquiries into Trump’s attempt to overturn election results, his role in the events of January 6, and his handling of clas­si­fied documents. At the time, almost all experts we surveyed believed that Trump had committed a crime in each case. By contrast, responses from the public were sharply polarized: across the three cases, 88–92% of Democrats believed that Trump had committed a crime versus just 13–16% of Republicans. Beliefs that Trump committed a crime and that he should be pros­e­cut­ed were closely linked in both samples.

In our latest survey, we again asked experts and the public about the three inves­ti­ga­tions listed above as well as about the hush money case and about Joe Biden’s handling of clas­si­fied documents after he left the vice pres­i­den­cy in 2017. We cal­cu­lat­ed the per­cent­age of respon­dents who think Trump or Biden committed a crime in each case (out of the total including those who said that he didn’t commit a crime as well as those who said that they didn’t know). For items that were pre­vi­ous­ly surveyed in October 2022, we also examined for changes in this belief over time.

For each alle­ga­tion against Trump, large majori­ties of both experts and Democrats believe a crime was committed. On the Biden documents alle­ga­tion, only 12% of both experts and Democrats believe the same. There is, however, mean­ing­ful variation among the experts across the Trump alle­ga­tion items. For instance, while nearly every political scientist in our expert sample (94%) indicated that Trump had committed a crime in relation to his handling of clas­si­fied documents, only 73% said the same with regard to his payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, the legal foun­da­tion for which has been char­ac­ter­ized by experts as shaky (12% said no crime, 16% did not know). Belief that Trump committed a crime in the hush money case is the lowest out of the four cases in each group con­sid­ered except for Republicans.

Republicans are, unsur­pris­ing­ly, most skeptical of claims that Trump committed crimes (11–25%) and most confident that Joe Biden did so (68%). That said, the pro­por­tion of Republicans who believe that Trump committed a crime in his handling of clas­si­fied documents increased from 9% in October 2022, when rel­a­tive­ly little infor­ma­tion was available, to 25% in the June-July survey, which took place after the widely-covered release of the evidence in the documents indict­ment. This change is the largest shift in beliefs we observe for any group across all the cases. Most Republicans (53%) still believe that Trump did not commit a crime in the documents case, but that is a much lower share than the 70% of Republicans who said the same in October 2022. This shift suggests that some parts of the GOP are respon­sive to evidence provided by special counsel Jack Smith.

Criminal judgments among partisan inde­pen­dents are similar for Trump and Biden and rel­a­tive­ly low overall. A majority of inde­pen­dents does not believe a crime was committed across each of the five cases. However, belief that a crime was committed is highest (46%) for Trump’s handling of documents, which is up from 34% in October 2022.

These data also allow us to examine the dis­tri­b­u­tion of per­cep­tions for all four sets of alle­ga­tions that Trump committed a crime. Experts and Republicans express nearly opposite views. Sixty percent of experts indicated that Trump committed a crime in all four cases and 21% indicated that he committed a crime in three of the four cases. In contrast, 68% of Republicans said Trump committed a crime in none of the four cases and 18% said he committed a crime in just one of the cases.

We next asked respon­dents who said Trump committed a crime in each of the cases about the appro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment: none, a fine or probation, or a prison sentence. The figure below plots these quan­ti­ties as a pro­por­tion of each group as a whole. (We pooled those who said Trump did not commit a crime and those who said he did but that he should face no pun­ish­ment for doing so; the latter quantity is always neg­li­gi­ble.) The figure thus rep­re­sents the per­cent­age of experts, Democrats, inde­pen­dents, and Republicans who think Trump should face a given level of pun­ish­ment in each case.


More than six in ten experts support prison in each case except for the hush-money case, where 52% supported a fine or probation and another 31% said Trump should not face pun­ish­ment. The pattern of support for prison time was similar for Democrats across cases. Among inde­pen­dents, support for prison was sub­stan­tial­ly lower and never reached 40%; majori­ties of inde­pen­dents support no pun­ish­ment for every alle­ga­tion. Finally, very few Republicans support Trump serving prison time. The per­cent­age who believe he did not commit a crime or should face no pun­ish­ment ranges from 76% in the documents case to 89% in the January 6 case. 

The public’s attitudes toward President Biden’s handling of clas­si­fied documents are somewhat less polarized. While a plurality of Republicans (40%) say that Biden should face prison time, 34% say that Biden did commit a crime or should not face any pun­ish­ment. Among inde­pen­dents, nearly two-third of respon­dents (65%) say that Biden should not face any pun­ish­ment. Finally, 90% of Democrats say Biden should not face any pun­ish­ment. Among experts, there is a near-consensus (94%) that Biden should not face any punishment. 

Finally, we asked respon­dents who said that Trump had not committed a crime whether they believed Trump did not do what he was accused of (i.e., the factual claims in the cases are false) or that Trump took the alleged actions but they did not amount to a crime (i.e., he is being wrongly pros­e­cut­ed for actions that are not illegal). Respondents who said that they did not know if Trump had committed a crime were not asked this follow-up question. 


Because most experts said that Trump had committed crimes, few of them were asked this follow-up question. Among those who were, there is little dis­agree­ment regarding the factual basis of the cases. Instead, the main defense of Trump’s conduct is to acknowl­edge that he did what he’s accused of but to say that these actions are not a crime. Responses among Democrats are similar. Among inde­pen­dents and Republicans, responses vary from case to case. For the hush money and clas­si­fied documents cases, most inde­pen­dents and Republicans who say that Trump did not commit a crime agree that Trump’s behavior has been accu­rate­ly described but does not rise to the level of crim­i­nal­i­ty. In both cases, there is clear visual evidence of Trump’s conduct – namely, a check in the hush money case and widely-cir­cu­lat­ed pictures of boxes strewn around Mar-a-Lago in the clas­si­fied documents case. By contrast, the main defense of Trump’s actions in the events of January 6, 2021 is that he did not engage in actions that violated the law. Finally, inde­pen­dents and Republicans are evenly split between those who say Trump did not take the alleged actions in attempt­ing to overturn the 2020 election and those who maintain those actions were not criminal.

For the two cases that have so far led to indict­ments (the documents case and the hush money case), we also asked respon­dents whether they agreed that “Trump would not have been pros­e­cut­ed if he were someone else.” Republican leaders, as well as Trump himself, have repeat­ed­ly argued that the indict­ments are polit­i­cal­ly motivated and legally flimsy. The figure below shows that this argument was endorsed by more than 4 in 5 Republicans on both charges and by a majority of inde­pen­dents as well. Democrats and political science experts are far less likely to endorse the claim that Trump would not have been charged if he were someone else, although it is notable that more than twice as many experts say Trump is being singled out on the hush money charges (32%) than on the clas­si­fied materials indict­ment (15%).


We also asked our expert respon­dents to compare the two cases that have so far led to indict­ments in terms of the relative strength of evidence and the prob­a­bil­i­ty of con­vic­tion. 79% of respon­dents in our sample indicated that they believed the federal indict­ment in Florida to contain stronger evidence against Donald Trump, while just 2% thought the opposite. 19% said that the two indict­ments contained evidence of roughly equal strength. Similarly, 57% of our respon­dents thought that former president Trump was more likely to be convicted in the Florida case, while just 10% believed that the New York case related to hush money payment was more likely to lead to a con­vic­tion. 33% of respon­dents indicated that the prob­a­bil­i­ty of con­vic­tion was about equally likely. 

Finally, we also probed our expert respon­dents on their views regarding the legal standards that should be applied to pros­e­cu­tions of a former president. An over­whelm­ing majority (81%) said that the evi­den­tiary standard for pros­e­cut­ing a former president should be the same as it is for regular citizens. 15% believed that the evi­den­tiary standard should be higher. There was almost no support for the sug­ges­tions that the evi­den­tiary standard should be lower (1%) or that former pres­i­dents should not be pros­e­cut­ed at all (3%). 

Perceptions of charges in the documents indictment

The indict­ment filed in June 2023 by special counsel Jack Smith contains a series of specific alle­ga­tions regarding Trump’s handling of clas­si­fied documents. With a few notable excep­tions, Republican politi­cians have dismissed the indict­ment as polit­i­cal­ly motivated and continued to support Trump. However, legal experts, including former Trump attorney general William P. Barr, view the case as strong

In the weeks after the indict­ment, surveys indicated that a majority of Americans viewed the charges against Trump as serious but that only a minority believed he should be charged with a crime. Polls also showed that a majority regarded the charges as polit­i­cal­ly motivated. Support for Trump has accord­ing­ly held firm: most co-partisans dismiss the charges and Trump’s standing in pre­dic­tion markets as the most likely 2024 GOP pres­i­den­tial candidate actually strength­en­ing after an initial decline.

To better under­stand the reaction of the Republican base to the indict­ment, we sought to dis­tin­guish between per­cep­tions of the seri­ous­ness of the alle­ga­tions and per­cep­tions of the accuracy of the alle­ga­tions. Republicans who dismiss the alle­ga­tions against Trump may believe that the behavior Trump is accused of would be serious if it were true, but simply do not believe the claims in the indict­ment. Alternatively, they may acknowl­edge that Trump behaved in the way the indict­ment describes, but believe this behavior to be justifiable.

Accordingly, we presented both expert and public par­tic­i­pants with four specific alle­ga­tions made in the indictment:

  • Trump deliberately brought classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago resort upon leaving the White House in January 2021.

  • Trump stored classified documents in unsecured locations, including a ballroom and a bathroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

  • Trump showed classified documents to people who had no security clearance.

  • Trump suggested that his attorney hide or destroy classified documents before federal authorities could recover them. 

For each alle­ga­tion, we first asked respon­dents what the appro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment for the actions described would be assuming that the claims are accurate. Respondents could choose from multiple options ranging from no pun­ish­ment to more than five years in prison. We then asked respon­dents if they thought the claim was true; the answer choices ranged from “def­i­nite­ly true” to “def­i­nite­ly not true.” We first plot the per­cent­age of respon­dents from each group who view each specific claim in the document case as def­i­nite­ly or probably true. 


The vast majority of experts (98–99%) say that the charges in the indict­ment are def­i­nite­ly or probably true; 96.8% of experts indicated that all four claims were true. We do observe dif­fer­ences in con­fi­dence, however — 79% of experts regard the storage-of-documents charge as “def­i­nite­ly true,” compared to 56% for the directed-obstruc­tion charge. The dif­fer­ence that is likely related to the pho­to­graph­ic evidence for the former. Among Democrats, overall belief in the truth of the charges is nearly as high (93–96%). 

Belief in the charges is lower among partisan inde­pen­dents, but solid majori­ties (68–74%) in this group also believe each charge to be true. Among Republicans, a majority (52%) believes Trump brought clas­si­fied documents to Mar-a-Lago but only a minority believe each of the other charges (34–44%).

We also asked about the appro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment for each charge in the case, assuming the charges are true. The figure below shows that Democrats lean toward the most severe pun­ish­ment option, prison sentences of five or more years, for every charge, whereas a plurality of Republicans said Trump should face no pun­ish­ment for each charge even if they were true. For instance, 25% of Republicans said that Trump directing his attorneys to hide or destroy clas­si­fied documents before federal author­i­ties could recover them is not a crime, 15% said it is tech­ni­cal­ly a crime but should not be pros­e­cut­ed, and 33% said Trump should face a fine or probation but not prison time. Only 27% of Republicans said this behavior would, if true, justify prison time. Attitudes among inde­pen­dents fell, as always, between those of partisans on either side but large majori­ties favored pun­ish­ment of some sort, and majori­ties supported prison if the charges about storing or showing documents or about obstruc­tion are true.


Experts dis­tin­guished among pun­ish­ments in a more fine-grained manner. The claims that former president Trump brought documents to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving the White House and stored them in unsecured locations are perceived by experts as the least serious: experts over­whelm­ing­ly indicate these actions are crimes but only 51% and 52%, respec­tive­ly, said prison time would be an appro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment. However, 71% of experts state that showing clas­si­fied documents to people with no security clearance warrants prison time as did 76% for directing attorneys to hide or destroy clas­si­fied documents before federal author­i­ties can recover them.

Contrast effects between cases

The AP-NORC Center has asked questions similar to those in our survey about the same set of four criminal charges or alle­ga­tions against Trump. In April 2023, the per­cent­age of respon­dents regarding Trump’s behavior in the clas­si­fied documents case as illegal was 47%. By June, soon after charges were filed, it had increased to 53%. By contrast, per­cep­tions that Trump committed a crime declined over the same period for each other charge or alle­ga­tion – from 49% to 45% for involve­ment in January 6, from 53% to 50% for attempt­ing to interfere in Georgia’s vote count, and from 41% to 35% for covering up hush money payments. 

The increase in per­cep­tions of criminal behavior in the documents case likely reflects exposure to coverage of the thor­ough­ly doc­u­ment­ed evidence in that indict­ment, but why did per­cep­tions of criminal behavior in the other cases decline? One pos­si­bil­i­ty is a contrast effect in which the vivid narrative and visual evidence presented in the documents case makes the other cases look less com­pelling. In our survey, ran­dom­ized variation in the order par­tic­i­pants were asked about the various alle­ga­tions provides leverage to test for such a contrast effect. Our expec­ta­tion is that a prior reminder of the documents case will change how par­tic­i­pants evaluate the other charges or allegations.

The figure below illus­trates the per­cent­age of expert and public respon­dents judging Trump to have committed a crime in the three other cases based on whether they were asked about the case before or after being asked about Trump’s handling of clas­si­fied documents.

For every non-documents alle­ga­tion, respon­dents who had pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered the documents charges were less likely than those who had not to say Trump had committed a crime among both experts and the public. Considering the documents charges first reduced reported belief that Trump committed a crime in inter­fer­ing in the 2020 election from 90% to 83% among experts and from 44% to 41% among the public. Similar declines were observed for Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021 (81% to 75% among experts, 43% to 41% among the public) and his actions related to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels (75% to 70% among experts, 44% to 39% among the public). Every shift is in the expected direction. The detailed and exten­sive­ly doc­u­ment­ed charges related to clas­si­fied materials establish a high evi­den­tiary standard that could shape per­cep­tions of other cases against Trump.

Public demand for reprisal 

On June 13, 2023, the night of his arraign­ment in Florida, former president Trump held a rally at his Bedminster golf club and declared that if reelected, he would “appoint a real special pros­e­cu­tor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden crime family.” In parallel, Republicans in Congress have sought to inves­ti­gate President Biden and his family. Statements and actions like these have lent credence to worries by observers that pros­e­cut­ing Trump could backfire and lead to a cycle of partisan pros­e­cu­tions that would further politi­cize the criminal justice system. Our experts do not seem concerned about this prospect given the pun­ish­ments they expressed support for above. As we describe later in this report, fewer than 10% of them consider the indict­ments to be a threat to democracy. And in our October 2022 survey, among experts who indicated that Trump had committed a crime in three different cases, about 90% favored pros­e­cut­ing him. 

Should we be concerned about the risk of a cycle of partisan pros­e­cu­tions? As students of Latin American politics know, once the cycle starts it can be hard to break. We asked respon­dents in our public sample whether they agreed that “the next Republican president should bring criminal charges against Joe Biden and other Democrats in response to the indict­ments of former president Donald Trump.” Among Republicans, 41% said they “strongly” agreed and an addi­tion­al 23% said they “somewhat” agreed. In other words, nearly two-thirds of Republican respon­dents are in favor of some sort of pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al reprisal against President Biden. To be sure, Republican respon­dents may genuinely believe that Biden has committed crimes and that he should be pros­e­cut­ed for them regard­less of what happens to former president Trump. Additionally, it is plausible that Republicans would pursue polit­i­cal­ly-motivated inves­ti­ga­tions of Biden and other Democrats regard­less of Trump’s legal travails. Nonetheless, these data seem to indicate an embrace among Republicans of using inves­ti­ga­tions as a tool for retribution.

Public con­fi­dence in elections

We asked our public respon­dents a series of questions to measure their con­fi­dence in American elections and insti­tu­tion­al processes around them.

Belief that Biden is the rightful winner

Since November 2020, we have asked Americans if they believe Joe Biden was the rightful winner of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial election. During the year following the election, attitudes in the GOP barely budged: across four con­sec­u­tive survey waves between November 2020 and November 2021, only about 25% of Republicans indicated that they believed Biden was “def­i­nite­ly” or “probably” the rightful winner. Recent evidence suggests that these survey responses cannot be explained by expres­sive respond­ing: two studies show that Republicans appear to genuinely believe that Biden was not the rightful winner. However, in surveys conducted imme­di­ate­ly before and after the November 2022 midterm elections, we detected a mean­ing­ful shift; agreement that Biden was right­ful­ly elected in 2020 increased to approx­i­mate­ly 35% among Republicans. Furthermore, CNN found that while most Republicans still doubted Biden’s win, a growing share conceded that their view was based on “suspicion only” rather than “solid evidence.” 

Our June/July 2023 survey again asked respon­dents whether they believed that Biden had been right­ful­ly elected. The figure below shows the share of respon­dents across different partisan groups who state that Biden was “def­i­nite­ly” or “probably” the rightful winner of the election. Agreement with this statement remains stable, and nearly unanimous, among Democrats. Around three-quarters of Republicans rejected Biden’s win for at least a year following the 2020 election, but between November 2021 and November 2022, we observed an increase among Republicans, with around one-third rec­og­niz­ing Biden’s electoral legit­i­ma­cy. That trend has flattened again, however, and the pro­por­tion of Republicans who see Biden as right­ful­ly elected remains at 36%. By contrast, partisan inde­pen­dents show an increase on this metric from 57% in November 2022 to 64% in June/July 2023. Although true inde­pen­dents represent a rel­a­tive­ly small segment of the pop­u­la­tion (19%), their increased con­fi­dence in electoral integrity is welcome news for American democracy.

Losing parties express more dis­sat­is­fac­tion with election systems in every democracy. In the case of the 2020 U.S. election, however, elites have amplified rather than dampened those sen­ti­ments – most notably, Donald Trump himself, the losing candidate in 2020 and leading candidate for the next Republican pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. As a result, these deep sus­pi­cions are likely to persist through the 2024 election, which is fast approach­ing. The figure above also dis­ag­gre­gates Republicans we surveyed since October 2022 by whether they indicated that they are more of a supporter of Trump (45–48% of Republicans and Republican leaners across the three surveys) or more of a supporter of the Republican Party (52–55%). As the results show, only about one in five Republicans who indicates a primary alle­giance to Trump views Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 election. By contrast, approx­i­mate­ly half of Republicans who say they are more of a supporter of the party believe Biden was legit­i­mate­ly elected. This breakdown, too, has been largely stable since last fall.

In com­bi­na­tion, these results offer notes of both optimism and caution. Republicans whose primary alle­giance is to the party are less likely to doubt the 2020 election – belief in Biden’s victory is 48% in June/July 2023, compared with 36% for the party as a whole. At the same time, the issue continues to split even the wing of the party that is less loyal to Trump.

We noted above that CNN found declines over time in Republican certainty that Biden’s victory was ille­git­i­mate. Our survey question on the rightful winner in 2020 includes four response options that can provide more insight. The figure below dis­ag­gre­gates Republican respon­dents who doubt Biden’s victory by plotting the per­cent­age of Republicans who say that Biden “def­i­nite­ly” did not win the election right­ful­ly versus the share who say that Biden “probably” did not do so. 

We find a sub­stan­tial decline in the share of Republicans who express the highest level of certainty that Biden was not right­ful­ly elected. From November 2020 to November 2022, the per­cent­age of Republicans asserting with certainty that Biden was not the rightful winner declined from 50% to 38% but then held steady in our June-July 2023 survey. The share of Republicans who say that Biden was probably not the rightful winner of the 2020 election has been stable at around 25% across that entire span.

Perceptions of fraud and manip­u­la­tion in 2016

To assess the likely dura­bil­i­ty of 2020 election denial, we also consider the long-term per­sis­tence of false beliefs about the 2016 election. During and after the campaign, the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from both major parties cast doubt on the results of the election: then-candidate Trump repeat­ed­ly asserted that the vote count could not be trusted before the election and, even after winning, as president-elect, continued to claim that “millions of people voted illegally.” Hillary Clinton stated in 2017 that she would not rule out ques­tion­ing the legit­i­ma­cy of the election if Russian inter­fer­ence proved deeper than what was then known and later called Trump an “ille­git­i­mate president.” 

Our June-July 2023 survey included two questions about these baseless claims regarding the 2016 election. The first asked respon­dents whether they believe millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, a false claim echoing Trump that we expect to be congenial to Republicans. The second, which is congenial to Democrats, asked respon­dents whether they believed that Russia tampered with vote tallies during the 2016 election to get Trump elected, a false claim that was debunked by the Senate Intelligence Committee. We plot the per­cent­age of respon­dents who say each claim is “def­i­nite­ly” or “probably” true by party (including leaners) below. 

Even years after these false claims were debunked, millions of Americans still subscribe to them. Most notably, Democrats, the losing side in 2016, were the most likely to endorse a false claim about that election — 54% said it was def­i­nite­ly or probably true that Russia tampered with votes to get Trump elected, compared to just 33% of inde­pen­dents and 16% of Republicans. The partisan gradient is less sharp for the millions of illegal votes claim, which may reflect that it was a claim made by Trump about an election that he won. In that case, 45% of Republicans say the claim is def­i­nite­ly or probably true, compared to 36% of inde­pen­dents and 30% of Democrats. 

The figure below directly compares belief in these claims with polling data collected in December 2016 as part of the YouGov/Economist poll. To facil­i­tate com­par­i­son with the reported results from that poll, we restrict these results to iden­ti­fied partisans only (i.e., leaners are excluded). 

Among Republicans and inde­pen­dent voters, both beliefs have declined over time, with larger movement on the claim of millions of illegal votes, which decreased from 52% to 44% among Republicans and 52% to 34% among inde­pen­dents. However, expressed belief among Democrats in Russian vote tampering increased from 52% in 2016 to 57% in 2023. These claims have been far less salient to American politics than denial of the 2020 election results but belief in them have proven no less persistent.

Perceptions of January 6

We next consider public per­cep­tions of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by sup­port­ers of then-President Trump — the cul­mi­nat­ing event in the effort to overturn the results of the election. The events of that day have become a touch­stone for beliefs about the integrity of American elections and the insti­tu­tion­al pro­ce­dures that support them. To date, more than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes for their actions on that day, but a wave of revi­sion­ist history has sought to recast the storming of the Capitol in a more favorable light. Most notably, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave “exclusive” sur­veil­lance footage access to former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who minimized the violence of that day and made numerous false claims. Carlson has repeat­ed­ly promoted con­spir­a­cy theories about the events of January 6, including claiming that a man named Ray Epps was a gov­ern­ment agent who insti­gat­ed the violence. 

In our survey, we mentioned “the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021” and sep­a­rate­ly asked respon­dents whether it is appro­pri­ate or not appro­pri­ate to describe it as a legit­i­mate protest, as a riot, and as an insur­rec­tion. Prior polling by the Monmouth University Poll found that the per­cent­age of respon­dents saying the events of January 6 were an insur­rec­tion declined from 56% in June 2021 to 47% in May 2023. Over that period, Republicans in par­tic­u­lar became much less likely to call the events an insur­rec­tion (from 33% to 15%) or a riot (from 62% to 44%). The results we found in June/July 2023 are presented below. 

As the figure indicates, 58% of Republicans said it is appro­pri­ate to call the events of January 6, 2021 a legit­i­mate protest — even higher than the 51% recorded by Monmouth in May. They are cor­re­spond­ing­ly less likely to say it is appro­pri­ate to call it a riot (49%) or an insur­rec­tion (26%). Democrats, by contrast, over­whelm­ing­ly say it is appro­pri­ate to call January 6 a riot (85%) or an insur­rec­tion (84%); very few say it is a legit­i­mate protest (17%). In short, per­cep­tions of January 6 appear to be further polarized in the summer of 2023 than ever.

Assessments of American democracy and threats to it

Current and future demo­c­ra­t­ic performance

As in each Bright Line Watch survey, we asked both expert and public respon­dents to rate the overall per­for­mance of U.S. democracy on a 0–100 scale. Expert ratings, which increased in November 2022 after the midterm elections, rose further by June/July 2023, reaching an all-time high in the 2017–2023 period of 70.3. This change may be attrib­ut­able to the federal charges filed against former President Trump, which experts view as con­vinc­ing (see above) and a benefit to democracy (see below). By contrast, ratings of U.S. democracy fell compared to November 2022 among both Democrats (from 61.0 to 57.5) and Republicans (from 57.3 to 54.4).

We also asked respon­dents to antic­i­pate the future per­for­mance of U.S. democracy in 2027 and 2032. The results, plotted below, show that both experts and the public antic­i­pate demo­c­ra­t­ic decline in future years. The decrease among the public is driven by Republicans (from 54.4 today to 50.9 in 2027 and 48.3 in 2032) whereas Democrats antic­i­pate stability. It is also worth noting that, although experts project mild erosion in the years ahead, that group has grown more opti­mistic overall since October 2022, the last time we asked our expert and public samples for demo­c­ra­t­ic pro­jec­tions. Experts rate American democracy higher now than they did last year (70.3 rather than 66.6) and their future pro­jec­tions are cor­re­spond­ing­ly higher. By contrast, current and projected future ratings have remained stable among the public, including among both Democrats and Republicans. (For clarity, the figure shows the October 2022 pro­jec­tions only for the experts.)

Threats to American democracy

We asked our experts to consider a series of events, some of which have already happened and others that could mate­ri­al­ize in the future, and to assess the impact, if any, that each has had, or could have, on U.S. democracy. The set of events that have already occurred are the following: 

  • Former president Donald Trump is indicted by New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg for falsification of business records in relation to a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign

  • Former president Donald Trump is indicted by special counsel Jack Smith over his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House

  • Numerous Republican candidates enter the 2024 presidential race, joining Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein refuses to resign and returns to Washington following a lengthy health-related absence

  • President Joe Biden calls MAGA Republicans “semi-fascist”

  • The group No Labels seeks to secure ballot access to potentially challenge the major-party presidential candidates next year

  • The House Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government conducts investigations and holds hearings

The events that could occur in the future are the following:

  • Donald Trump is nominated as the Republican candidate for president ahead of the 2024 elections

  • Ron DeSantis is nominated as the Republican candidate for president ahead of the 2024 elections

  • Joe Biden is nominated as the Democratic candidate for president ahead of the 2024 elections

For each event, experts were first asked to indicate whether they believed it to be a benefit to American democracy, a threat to American democracy, or whether it would not affect American democracy, with a follow-up on the degree of benefit or threat. The figure below shows the items in descend­ing order of perceived threat to democracy. The right panel shows the per­cent­age of experts who indicated that an event would not affect American democracy. 

As in past surveys, the prospect of Donald Trump being nominated as the Republican candidate for the pres­i­den­cy (as is now con­sid­ered likely) causes deep concern among our experts. More than 9 in 10 experts say that his nom­i­na­tion is a threat to American democracy, including 80% who says that the threat is extra­or­di­nary or serious. The near-consensus on this issue is not sur­pris­ing. Whereas former president Trump’s first term was by all measures norm-shat­ter­ing, many have raised concerns that a potential second term could be even more perilous for American democracy, given his avowed message of revenge and the prospect that he could be more effective in wielding gov­ern­ment power. 

The prospect of Florida governor Ron DeSantis being nominated as the Republican candidate for president also attracts concern, though less than Trump. 55% of our expert sample say that a DeSantis nom­i­na­tion would be a threat to democracy, including 42% who say he presents an extra­or­di­nary or serious threat. On the other hand, about a third of experts say that a DeSantis nom­i­na­tion would not affect American democracy. These divisions reflect dif­fer­ences  between experts who say DeSantis has sought to use the power of the state to pursue his political agenda and critics who view concerns about DeSantis as over­stat­ed. By contrast, a Biden nom­i­na­tion elicits little concern from our experts – 67% say it would not affect American democracy one way or the other. 

Other than a potential Trump nom­i­na­tion, experts expressed the most concern about the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. This committee, which was formed following the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections, states that it seeks to inves­ti­gate purported abuses of power against con­ser­v­a­tives by federal gov­ern­ment agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Justice. 57% of experts viewed it as a threat, including 28% who rated the threat as extra­or­di­nary or serious.

Finally, most experts rate the indict­ments of former president Trump in Florida and New York as benefits to democracy. The consensus is much stronger, however, for the indict­ment related to the handling of clas­si­fied documents in Florida. 85% of experts say the indict­ment will benefit democracy, compared to 54% for the hush money indict­ment in Florida. As discussed above, few experts consider either indict­ment to be a threat to democracy, sug­gest­ing rel­a­tive­ly little concern about sparking a cycle of retribution. 

Media coverage of Trump

Trump’s position in American politics is without precedent. He is the front-runner for the Republican pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion and also widely regarded as a profound threat to our democracy. Experts and the media fre­quent­ly debate how to balance these two con­sid­er­a­tions in covering Trump-related news, espe­cial­ly when covering events like the widely-crit­i­cized CNN town hall in which outlets give a platform to Trump as he repeat­ed­ly makes false state­ments. We therefore asked both our expert and public samples how Donald Trump’s candidacy in the 2024 pres­i­den­tial election should be covered. 

There is consensus across groups that Trump should be covered like other can­di­dates, including 56% of experts. Even a plurality (45%) of Democrats says Trump should be covered like other can­di­dates. Support for min­i­miz­ing coverage of contexts in which Trump can speak unfil­tered is highest among experts (31%). Few respon­dents in any group, including just 13% of experts, say that the media should minimize all coverage of Trump.

Are democracy assess­ments biased toward pessimism?

Expert assess­ments are central to research on demo­c­ra­t­ic erosion, including our own approach at Bright Line Watch in studying the United States. However, a recent working paper by the political sci­en­tists Andrew Little and Anne Meng has raised concerns over this scholarly approach. Little and Meng argue that expert assess­ments of democracy worldwide should be com­ple­ment­ed with what they char­ac­ter­ize as more objective, mea­sur­able indi­ca­tors such as the incumbent turnover rate. Whereas expert assess­ments show demo­c­ra­t­ic decline in recent years, Little and Meng find no such pattern in their proposed indi­ca­tors. To explain the dis­crep­an­cy, they suggest that “changes in the media envi­ron­ment or changing coder standards may have led to a time varying bias in expert surveys which makes it appear the world is getting less demo­c­ra­t­ic than the true trend.” If that’s the case, then pes­simistic con­clu­sions regarding the state of democracy across the world may not be warranted. 

To advance this debate, we sought to determine whether the political sci­en­tists who generate expert assess­ments in our surveys are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly biased toward demo­c­ra­t­ic pessimism. Using questions designed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Little and Meng, we asked respon­dents whether they had ever been invited to serve as a coder for V‑Dem, the most ambitious cross-national measure of the state of democracy across countries. We also asked whether they had served (if invited) and about will­ing­ness to serve (if not invited). Of 544 expert respon­dents who completed this section of our survey, 484 (89%) had never been invited to serve as V‑Dem coders; 16 (3%) had been invited but did not par­tic­i­pate; and 44 (8%) had been invited and served as coders. Of those who had never been asked to par­tic­i­pate, 227 (48%) expressed to par­tic­i­pate if asked. 

Prior to being asked about V‑Dem par­tic­i­pa­tion, our expert respon­dents had rated, on a 100-point scale, the quality of democracy in a random subset of six countries around the world in addition to the United States from the following set: Brazil, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 

Expert coder bias could operate either through V‑Dem invi­ta­tions (if experts who are invited are more pes­simistic than experts who are not invited) or through self-selection (if experts who choose to par­tic­i­pate are more pes­simistic than experts who decline). The next figure shows the average ratings for each country. The left panel compares ratings from expert respon­dents in our sample who had and had not been invited by V‑Dem. The right panel compares ratings from those willing versus unwilling to par­tic­i­pate with V‑Dem.

We find no evidence of bias toward pessimism at either stage of selection into the V‑Dem coder pool. Average democracy ratings among those who were invited to code for V‑Dem were actually higher than the average ratings among uninvited experts for 12 or 13 countries (excepting only Turkey; the dif­fer­ence reached sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance for Brazil and Peru). With regard to par­tic­i­pa­tion, average ratings were higher among those willing to code for V‑Dem than among those who are unwilling for all 13 countries, with sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences for the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Poland. Overall, the political sci­en­tists whom V‑Dem invites and those inclined to par­tic­i­pate if asked appear more sanguine, not less, about democracy around the world than are experts outside that V‑Dem coder pool. 

We note, however, that experts who code for V‑Dem rate specific countries on which they have the greatest expertise. Our survey sample unfor­tu­nate­ly does not include enough V‑Dem coders who also rated their specific country of expertise in our survey to allow com­par­i­son with ratings from the broader set of political sci­en­tists. Second, our sample of political sci­en­tists may itself be vul­ner­a­ble to self-selection bias; it is possible that experts who decline to take part in our survey hold sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly different attitudes from those who do. Finally, it is also possible that political science as a whole is unduly pes­simistic about democracy across the world, in which case the baseline against which we are comparing V‑Dem coders does not reflect a ground truth about democracy around the world. If such a bias were new, or grew, in recent years, it could cause a universal shift in coder standards that our approach might not detect.


We continue to ask experts to sep­a­rate­ly rate recent events as normal or abnormal and as important or unim­por­tant. The complete list of events (with the exact text shown to respon­dents) is provided in the appendix; average ratings provided by our experts are plotted on the figure below. 

Experts rate several recent events as mostly important or higher on average and mostly normal on average, including the Supreme Court rulings on the inde­pen­dent state leg­is­la­ture doctrine in Moore v. Harper and on Alabama Congressional district bound­aries in Allen v. Milligan. The Hunter Biden plea deal is seen as rel­a­tive­ly normal and unimportant. 

Most notably, four events stand out as being rated as mostly important or greater and mostly abnormal or greater on average by experts – Tennessee Republicans expelling two Democratic lawmakers from the state leg­is­la­ture for their role in a pro-gun control protest in the chamber of the state, Donald Trump storing clas­si­fied documents he was not allowed to retain after leaving office in his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump’s statement in a social media post that election fraud “allows for the ter­mi­na­tion of all rules, reg­u­la­tions, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” and Trump’s vow to appoint a special pros­e­cu­tor to “go after” Joe Biden if he is reelected.

However, it is important to put these events into context of the set of important and abnormal events that experts have rated in prior Bright Line Watch surveys. The figure below zooms in on the top right portion of the graph above — the area in which events appear that are rated mostly important or greater and mostly abnormal or greater on average by experts.

In the broader context of the post-2016 era, these four events, while important and abnormal, are not rated as nearly as important and abnormal as, for instance, the storming of the Capitol on January 6, Trump asking the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” votes, or Trump con­tact­ing state officials to ask them to overturn the election.



Bright Line Watch conducted its nine­teenth survey of academic experts from June 28-July 12, 2023 and its sixteenth survey of the general public from June 29-July 7, 2022. Our public sample consisted of 2,776 par­tic­i­pants from the YouGov panel who were selected and weighted to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. adult pop­u­la­tion. We also surveyed 569 political science experts across a diverse range of subfields. Our email list was con­struct­ed from the faculty list of U.S. insti­tu­tions rep­re­sent­ed in the online program of the 2016 American Political Science Association con­fer­ence and updated by reviewing depart­ment websites and job placement records from Ph.D. programs in the period since.

All estimates shown in the report used weights provided by YouGov. Our expert sample is unweight­ed because we do not collect demo­graph­ic data to protect anonymity. Error bars in our graphs represent 95% con­fi­dence intervals. Data are available here.

Both the expert and public samples in Wave 18 responded to a battery of questions about demo­c­ra­t­ic per­for­mance in the United States. Afterward, they were asked to evaluate the quality of American democracy overall on a 100-point scale.

How well do the following state­ments describe the United States as of today?

  • The U.S. does not meet this standard
  • The U.S. partly meets this standard
  • The U.S. mostly meets this standard
  • The U.S fully meets this standard
  1. Government officials are legally sanc­tioned for misconduct
  2. Government officials do not use public office for private gain
  3. Government agencies are not used to monitor, attack, or punish political opponents
  4. All adult citizens enjoy the same legal and political rights
  5. Government does not interfere with jour­nal­ists or news organizations
  6. Government effec­tive­ly prevents private actors from engaging in polit­i­cal­ly-motivated violence or intimidation
  7. Government protects indi­vid­u­als’ right to engage in unpopular speech or expression
  8. Political com­pe­ti­tion occurs without criticism of opponents’ loyalty or patriotism
  9. Elections are free from foreign influence
  10. Parties and can­di­dates are not barred due to their political beliefs and ideologies
  11. All adult citizens have equal oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote
  12. All votes have equal impact on election outcomes
  13. Elections are conducted, ballots counted, and winners deter­mined without pervasive fraud or manipulation
  14. Executive authority cannot be expanded beyond con­sti­tu­tion­al limits
  15. The leg­is­la­ture is able to effec­tive­ly limit executive power
  16. The judiciary is able to effec­tive­ly limit executive power
  17. The elected branches respect judicial independence
  18. Voter par­tic­i­pa­tion in elections is generally high
  19. Information about the sources of campaign funding is available to the public
  20. Public policy is not deter­mined by large campaign contributions
  21. Citizens can make their opinions heard in open debate about policies that are under consideration
  22. The geo­graph­ic bound­aries of electoral districts do not sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly advantage any par­tic­u­lar political party
  23. Even when there are dis­agree­ments about ideology or policy, political leaders generally share a common under­stand­ing of relevant facts
  24. Elected officials seek com­pro­mise with political opponents
  25. Citizens have access to infor­ma­tion about can­di­dates that is relevant to how they would govern
  26. Government protects indi­vid­u­als’ right to engage in peaceful protest
  27. Law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tions of public officials or their asso­ciates are free from political influence or interference
  28. Government sta­tis­tics and data are produced by experts who are not influ­enced by political considerations
  29. The law is enforced equally for all persons
  30. Incumbent politi­cians who lose elections publicly concede defeat

The figure below breaks out per­for­mance ratings on each of 30 demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples. The markers for each principle indicate the per­cent­age of expert (green) and public (purple) respon­dents who regard the United States as fully or mostly meeting the standard (as opposed to meeting it partly or not at all). Consistent with the overall ratings, the experts rate U.S. demo­c­ra­t­ic per­for­mance more pos­i­tive­ly than the public overall. Few excep­tions exist, however, such as voting rights being equally protected for all citizens, politi­cians operating with a common under­stand­ing on factual matters, and electoral districts not sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly favoring one party over the other.

The next figure shows per­for­mance assess­ments on the same 30 prin­ci­ples for the public sample only by respon­dent par­ti­san­ship. On some prin­ci­ples, middling overall public assess­ments hide stark partisan polarization.

Additional com­po­nents of expert survey

Political events

In this series of questions, we ask how normal or abnormal and how important or unim­por­tant recent political events are.

Is this normal or abnormal?

  • Normal
  • Mostly normal
  • Borderline normal
  • Mostly abnormal
  • Abnormal

Is this unim­por­tant or important?

  • Unimportant
  • Mostly unim­por­tant
  • Semi-important
  • Mostly important
  • Important

Events list

  1. Tennessee Republicans expel two Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature for their role in a protest calling for more gun control
  2. Speaking about a potential second term, former president Trump declares: “I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
  3. A few days before the U.S. was set to default on its debt, con­gres­sion­al Republicans and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion agree on a deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending limits
  4. The Supreme Court strikes down Alabama’s con­gres­sion­al map because it limited the political power exercised by Black voters
  5. As the issue of LGBTQ rights rises in salience, drag show events in multiple states attract protests
  6. The U.S. Congress passes a bill that protects same-sex marriage
  7. A jour­nal­is­tic inves­ti­ga­tion reveals that George Santos, recently elected to represent New York’s 3rd con­gres­sion­al district, repeat­ed­ly lied about his resume during the campaign
  8. A Chinese spy balloon traverses the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. before the U.S. military shoots it down over the Atlantic Ocean
  9. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion approves the sale of over $600 million worth of weapons to Taiwan as tensions mount with China
  10. Montana bans the popular mobile appli­ca­tion TikTok amid mounting concerns about user privacy and its Chinese ownership
  11. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, is impeached by the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives following accu­sa­tions of bribery and obstruc­tion of justice
  12. Former president Donald Trump vows to appoint a special pros­e­cu­tor to “go after” Joe Biden if he is re-elected
  13. Following a lengthy con­fronta­tion with ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive members of the House, rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kevin McCarthy is elected Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot — the longest delay since 1859
  14. Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, agrees to a plea deal with federal pros­e­cu­tors following accu­sa­tions that he illegally acquired a firearm and committed tax crimes
  15. In a social media post, former president Trump asserts that election fraud “allows for the ter­mi­na­tion of all rules, reg­u­la­tions, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
  16. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives vote to censure Adam Schiff over his role in con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tions of former president Trump
  17. The Supreme Court rules against the “inde­pen­dent state leg­is­la­ture” theory, which asserts that the actions of state leg­is­la­tures in reg­u­lat­ing elections, including the drawing of electoral maps, cannot be reviewed by the courts
  18. President Trump stores clas­si­fied documents he was not allowed to retain after leaving office in his Mar-a-Lago estate
  19. President Trump makes hush money payments just before the 2016 election to an adult film star
  20. After appoint­ing con­ser­v­a­tive allies to a new state-appointed board reg­u­lat­ing Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, Florida governor Ron DeSantis says “I think all of these board members very much would like to see the type of enter­tain­ment that all families can appreciate.”
  21. Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi, is attacked and seriously injured by a home intruder who wanted to kidnap Nancy Pelosi

Additional Figures

The figures below plot changes in demo­c­ra­t­ic per­for­mance on specific prin­ci­ples since our prior survey in November 2022 for experts, the American public as a whole, and Democrats and Republicans separately.