Mountain Westerners share concern over democracy and misinformation
A new survey shows that the majority of people around the Mountain West are worried about the health of our democracy.
Commissioned by the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, research firm Morning Consult surveyed nearly 1,900 people total from Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
About 85% of respondents were concerned about the state of the nation’s democracy. Most also believe we’ll see more violence like the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Celinda Lake is a leading strategist for the Democratic party who spoke at the Frank Church Institute’s conference this week.
“You see not only that people expect violence ... but also people willing to resolve problems with violence,” she said.
Peter Fenn, a long-time politico on the Frank Church Institute’s board, says the federal government has to step up and show it can get things done while building confidence in elections and outcomes.
“This is critical because if we don’t have systems in place that people feel confidence in, we’re going to see more chaos,” he said.
The survey revealed large gaps between how Republicans and Democrats viewed certain topics. However, the vast majority of people preferred politicians working together and compromising over holding their ground.
Both parties also shared concerns over widespread misinformation, though their understanding of ‘misinformation’ differed. For example, Republicans were more likely to point to news media as a major source, and they’re also less likely to trust that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidential election.
“Only 51% of adults in the five states surveyed believe that former Vice President Joe Biden legitimately defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the November 2020 Presidential election,” Morning Consult’s report states.
However, that amount differed by state (60% of Nevadans believed it was a legitimate win, versus 32% of Wyomingites), and included 12% of respondents saying they were unsure.
The survey found broad consensus among both parties that misleading information on social media is a major issue.
William Fish is a former financial services expert and former legislative assistant to Frank Church, who represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate for 24 years. Fish said the level of misinformation and amount of concern over social media content signals a need for lawmakers to step in and impose regulation similar to what they’ve done for broadcast news media.
“Some of the social media companies are trying to figure out a way to self-govern themselves,” Fish said. “But there’s clearly going to be a need for some kind of congressional action to set some limits and set some guidelines to make the information less violent, less hate speech, more responsible, more editorial oversight.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.