One might assume that ballots and vote counts come close to an absolute truth, that large-scale election fraud is nearly impossible in stable and wealthy democratic countries: Public observers and reviews, recounts and challenge in courts, if demanded. Also, basic political processes are more important to people than historical events, where conspiracy theories may be adopted solely for entertainment (such as moon-hoax, JFK and 9/11).

This refers to the voting and vote count itself, not other influences, like biased media, voter suppression before ballots are cast, or distortion by the process (intermediate instances like districts with "winner takes it all" principle, or the electoral college in the USA).

On the other hand, in less stable countries or fake democracies, election fraud is common: Ballots being destroyed or not counted, fake ballots, minors, dead or non-existing people "voting", or simply fabricated results.

Are there any investigations, and possibly results, on what makes, for example, a huge part of US voters seriously believe that the voting process itself was fraudulent, similar to that of a developing country? I assume that a majority of them does not intend to bring Trump back into office at all cost, even by overthrowing democracy itself and installing him as a dictator.



  • Trust in an individual (e.g. Trump) over trust in a system
  • Confusion of "hard" facts (poll results) with "soft" points-of-view (e.g. biased media).
  • Large scale delusion (belief in conspiracy theories, QAnon etc. of entities exercising even unlikely levels of control)
  • 2
    This is a good question, but I'm not sure it can answered more definitively than with the hypotheses you've mentioned. In particular, I'm not sure one can really tell the difference between social conformity and motivated reasoning, at least not with usual polling methods.
    – Fizz
    Jan 14, 2021 at 13:48
  • 1
    This paper may interest you journal.sjdm.org/13/13313/jdm13313.pdf in general on such topics.
    – Fizz
    Jan 14, 2021 at 13:53
  • 1
    How about willful ignorance, an excuse not to accept the results b/c they are not in your favour? We are dealing with fascists here who refuse to accept democracy when the outcome is not to their liking. If you had any doubts about that, Wednesday’s attack on Congress should have ended them. Jan 14, 2021 at 15:32
  • This is nothing to do with politics. They believe them for the same reasons people believe that the moon landings were hoaxes, or there are aliens in Area 51. bbc.com/news/world-47144738 Jan 14, 2021 at 17:16
  • 2
    I don't think you can really restrict the question to election fraud. The real question (and I'm not sure it's even appropriate for Politics) is "Why do people believe Donald Trump?" After all, he lies about a great many other things - COVID-19, for a notable example - and the same subset of the population believe his lies about that.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 14, 2021 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


Since the U.S. is given as an example, there is a simple item that is missing on your list:

Complexity/convolution of the election process.

A trustworthy election process should not only be transparent but also as simple and coherent as possible, since it is quite obviously a bad thing if you have to explain the results to voters.

Since every U.S. state does things its own way, you got 50 different combinations of vote counting processes, dates, deadlines, mail-in-ballot-handling etc... To this you then add the nonsensical, sensationalism-driven election state-by-state live coverage and you already got one big convoluted mess.
The year 2020 then provided two additional recipe items that turned this big convoluted mess into a big explosive convoluted mess:

First: There were far more mail-in-ballots because of COVID which combines VERY badly with the aforementioned election live coverage. Experts specifically warned that a so called "Mirage" might occur, where one candidate seems to be leading until the mail-in-ballots are counted and cause the lead to disappear almost miraculously. This obviously was specifically what happened. The usual big election night live coverage, which the media just couldn't refrain from greatly exacerbated this mirage.

Second: Polarization. The U.S. is currently extremely polarized with a lot of distrust, anger and contempt between the two political sides, which decreases the overall willingness to accept a loss.

Add all of that together and you got the perfect recipe for what happened. No third-world-issues needed...

If the election process were different with all states having the same procedural rules, dates and deadlines, overall preliminary results being published at a specific date without state-by-state live coverage and so on, there would still be frustration, owed to the aforementionted polarization, but the election fraud case would be significantly harder to make.

  • 6
    You're assuming those who disagree with the outcome of an election, particularly the violent extremists who attacked the Capitol on Wednesday, are genuinely interested in the truth. Jan 14, 2021 at 15:37
  • 4
    @DJClayworth There must be something specific to election fraud, or else you would see similar numbers to Moon landing denial or 9/11 truthers. It's pretty clearly not just a generic conspiracy theory.
    – Ryan_L
    Jan 14, 2021 at 17:22
  • 11
    @Ryan_L If Donald J Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, spent several months repeating that we did not land on the moon and the whole thing was a Democrat hoax, I think you'd see them in similar numbers.
    – user253751
    Jan 14, 2021 at 17:30
  • 5
    I strongly believe that Pres. Trump (and pretty much every other Republican) completely understood the Mirage and that is why (and considering how Trump and his own family voted) he made mail-in-voting (being) fraudulent a major component of pre-election campaigning.
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 14, 2021 at 17:44
  • 5
    He laid all the same groundwork of saying "this election will be fraudulent" before the 2016 election, he just didn't need it then. Jan 14, 2021 at 19:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .