Back to Top

The Dynamics of Electoral Integrity: A Three Election Panel Study

When political leaders are chosen by democratic means, the electoral process supposedly legitimates their authority, whatever the outcome. Nonetheless, disliked democratic outcomes may result instead in denigration of the electoral process. If positive reactions to winning and negative reactions to losing ultimately balance one another out, then perceived electoral integrity should remain roughly constant in a highly competitive political environment such as the United States. However, little is known about the symmetry or duration of these effects. Using panel data spanning more than nine years, we examine individual perceptions of electoral integrity across three American presidential election cycles. Our conclusions suggest that the effects of winning versus losing are not symmetric. Moreover, effects on people’s perceptions of electoral integrity are surprisingly persistent over time. We find that repeated losing has especially important long-term consequences for how citizens view elections.