Northwestern Events Calendar


The Long Shadow of The Big Lie: How Beliefs about the Legitimacy of the 2020 Election Spill Over onto Future Elections

When: Friday, April 28, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, Ripton 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the American Politics Workshop as they host Dr. Matt Levendusky, Professor of Political Science and the Stephen and Mary Baran Chair in the Institutions of Democracy at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Abstract: Has the “big lie”—the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump—shaped citizens’ views about the legitimacy of U.S. elections more generally? We argue that for those who think the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, whom we label election deniers, all elections are now suspect. While all voters think elections are less legitimate when their preferred candidate loses, this effect will be especially large for election deniers, as Trump’s fraud argument gives them a mechanism to explain away the loss. Using an original panel dataset spanning the 2020 and 2022 elections, we show strong support for our hypotheses. Indeed, we show that the effect of the big lie on perceptions of the legitimacy of the 2022 election is as strong as voting for a winning or losing candidate, the key factor identified by earlier studies. These effects have important implications for our understanding of elections, and perceptions of their legitimacy, moving forward.

Dr. Matthew Levendusky is professor of Political Science, as well as the Stephen and Mary Baran Chair in the Institutions of Democracy at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, at the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds a secondary (courtesy) appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication, and serves as the Penny and Robert A. Fox Director of the Fels Institute of Government (2018-2026). He was previously Distinguished Fellow in the Institutions of Democracy at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (2017-2019), as well as graduate group chairperson (2013-2018), associate professor (2013-2018), and assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania (2007-2013), and a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for the Study of American Politics at Yale University (2006-2007). He obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2006, and his BA (with highest honors) from The Pennsylvania State University in 2001. Since 2014, he has served as a decision desk analyst for NBC News.

He is the author of The Partisan Sort (University of Chicago Press, 2009), How Partisan Media Polarize America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Our Common Bonds: Using What American Share to Overcome the Partisan Divide (University of Chicago Press, Forthcoming 2023). He is also the co-author (with Dominik Stecula) of We Need to Talk: How Cross-Party Dialogue Reduces Affective Polarization (Cambridge Elements in Experimental Political Science, 2021) and (as part of the Annenberg IOD Collaborative) of Democracy Amid Crises: Polarization, Pandemic, Protests, and Persuasion (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming 2023).

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