The 2020 election produced two distinct perceived realities for the United States public. The first perceived reality holds that the election was conducted fairly, and that Joe Biden won. Individuals who hold this vision of reality feel their votes were counted accurately, and that the events of January 6th were repugnant. This is also the version of reality for 60-70% of the US population. This reality is documented by court cases, our government officials (Republican and Democratic) in charge of administering the election, and the credible news media.
The second vision of reality holds that the election was essentially corrupt—driven, in particular, by illegal mail-in ballots, noncitizen voting, and voting machine fraud. In this perceived reality, Biden is a usurper to the presidency. Further, the people who stormed the Capitol had a point, although the worst actions were taken by individuals affiliated with Antifa activists masquerading as Trump supporters. This is the expressed reality of former President Trump, certain Republican leaders, a subset of conservative media, and certain corners of the social media ecosystem. This is also the reality for 25-30% of the US population, and roughly half of Republicans.
These two perceived realities are not created equal. The facts, as presented by the fact sorting institutions of the government and media, unambiguously support the first. However, perceptions—especially when they are shared by a sizable number of people and organized in a way that provides access to power—have consequences. The data below suggest that these two perceived realities will continue to define US politics, at least for the near future, because they are clustered around the two parties, and in each perceived reality, the other party is not just an opponent, but an enemy of democracy. In each case, the logical conclusion is that the assumption of power by the other party represents a potentially permanent surrendering of power. Below, we summarize public opinion regarding election integrity and the events of January 6th, and close by discussing the implications of these findings for American politics over the next 4 years.