Voters from both parties agree that the odds of a peaceful transition are remarkably low

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IN THE YEAR leading up to America’s presidential election, government agencies sounded repeated warnings of efforts by foreign adversaries to sow confusion and doubt about the integrity of the electoral system. Yet ultimately, the biggest source of disinformation came not from abroad, but from inside the White House. It has been nearly two weeks since the race was called for Joe Biden, the former vice-president. But President Donald Trump has refused to concede, instead claiming that widespread fraud cost him victory. His campaign has filed dozens of lawsuits intended to overturn the results in several states. Almost all that have so far come to court have been dismissed.

Although Mr Trump’s legal strategy is floundering, his rhetorical campaign to cast doubt about the election’s legitimacy appears to be working. A new poll by YouGov for The Economist finds that 74% of Republican voters believe there was “a lot” of voter fraud in the election, compared with just 6% of Democrats (see chart). The survey of 1,500 voters, conducted between November 15th and 17th, found that Republicans’ fears about the electoral process are widespread. Only 56% say they are at least moderately confident that their votes were counted correctly. In contrast, 95% of Democrats have faith their ballots were tallied fairly.

Senior members of Mr Trump’s party are not helping matters. Only a handful of prominent Republicans have denounced the president’s attempts to cling on to power; most have chosen instead to indulge his fantasies. Much of their reluctance may be explained by public opinion. YouGov’s data show that only a quarter of Republican voters believe Mr Trump should concede and that nearly half think the result will ultimately be overturned through recounts. Democrats vehemently disagree, of course, but their beliefs are of little consequence to politicians they were never going to vote for.

Republicans will soon have to face the reality of a Biden presidency. But this does not mean admitting defeat. Only about half of both Democrats and Republicans believe there will be a peaceful transition of power come January. It is more than likely that Trump loyalists will continue insisting that Mr Biden’s presidency is illegitimate, even as he occupies the White House.

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