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Voters Cast Ballots In Wyoming Primary
A voter casts their ballot in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Aug. 16. David Williams / Bloomberg via Getty Images

NBC News poll: Parties split over defining threats to democracy

Voters ranked “threats to democracy” as a top issue facing the country, but they differed on how to define those threats. 


One in five registered voters in a new national NBC News poll said the most important issue facing the country is threats to democracy, but the exact nature of those threats varies widely by political party. 

The issue once again topped the list of the most important issues facing the nation (with 20% naming it as their top issue), surpassing cost of living (18%), jobs and the economy (16%) and immigration (12%) after topping the list in the NBC News August poll. Democrats were more likely to list threats to democracy as a top issue, with 29% listing it as the most important compared to 12% of Republicans and 18% of independents. 

Those voters who selected threats to democracy as a top issue were asked an open-ended question about what that means. There were a wide variety of responses, with Democrats and Republicans naming a slew of different issues. 

One of the most common Democratic responses included the phrase “voter suppression,” as well as terms such as Republicans, election fraud, Trumpism, gerrymandering, government control and extremists.

One Democratic-leaning male voter said members of the “right wing” have “demonstrated a willingness to attempt to influence the outcome of elections by limiting the ability of people to vote, and by attempting to deny people the right to vote because they don’t believe people will support them.”

Republicans, on the other hand, defined threats to democracy largely as “government control.” Other common terms in GOP responses included censorship, Democrats, President Joe Biden, political corruption, overlooking the Constitution, and unsecured border. 

One female Republican voter said threats to democracy meant “that our government would control everything. People wouldn’t have a voice, control, a say in anything. And that it would be a series of laws and laws that just control us as though we’re puppets.” 

“Democracy is much more of an issue for Democrats than for independents and Republicans with real concerns about voter suppression,” said Jeff Horwitt of the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates, which conducted the poll with Bill McInturff of the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies. 

Republicans, Horwitt later added, are “really concerned about losing our constitutional rights, government overreach. Government control is really front and center here.”

The voters surveyed did give Democrats an advantage when it comes to addressing the issue, with 40% saying Democrats would do a better job protecting democracy, while 33% said the same of Republicans.

The NBC News poll was conducted Sept. 9-13 of 1,000 registered voters — including 750 respondents reached by cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.