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Fact Check: While campaigning in NC, Trump claims 82% of Americans believe 2020 election was rigged

Donald Trump told his supporters to prepare for "the final battle" in 2024.
Steve Harrison
Donald Trump told his supporters to prepare for "the final battle" in 2024.

It’s time now for a fact-check of North Carolina politics. This one is a bit different, in that it’s fact-checking how much a false statement has caught on.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump continues to insist the 2020 election was stolen from him. He made that same claim while campaigning in Greensboro this month, right before the North Carolina primary. Trump told the crowd “82% of the country understands that it was a rigged election.”

To fact-check how many people believe Trump’s false claim, "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry is joined by Paul Specht of WRAL.

Marshall Terry: Where is Trump getting that 82% number, Paul?

Paul Specht: Well, he said he was referencing a poll. He said : 'You can’t have a country with that. A poll came out: 82%.' [paraphrasing Trump] But 'they don't go after the people that rig the election,' they go after the people that are looking for the rigging. That was the end of his quote.

His campaign didn't get back to us, so that left us with looking this up the old-fashioned way, which is Googling around to see if there's any credible poll that said that 82% of Americans believe the election was rigged. And we could not find any poll [that] says that 82% of Americans think it was rigged. It's possible that Trump misunderstood or misrepresented or misread a poll with that number in it.

There was a poll from 2021 that said 82% of Fox News viewers who are Republicans believe the election was rigged. That showed up in a headline in 2021 for Newsweek, so it's possible he saw that and just misunderstood it or misrepresented it. But, obviously, Fox News viewers do not represent the whole of America. So we could not find any credible poll that backed him up.

Terry: Now, numerous polls have been conducted on whether people believe the 2020 election was fair and legitimate. What did they find?

Specht: For sure. And one thing that PolitiFact stresses all the time is that you can't judge public opinion based on one poll. So, when we look at things like, you know, what do the majority of Americans think? We take a look at a bunch of polls. And there have been a bunch over the years, since 2021, since Jan. 6 [Capitol riots] happened. Usually, the answers are somewhere between 30% and 40% or 45% of respondents say they think the election was influenced in some way to benefit Biden or out-and-out rigged.

Terry: Why does it matter how many people Trump says believe the 2020 election was stolen from him?

Specht: Around election season, campaigns and politicians tend to make it seem like everyone's on their side, you know? You'll see TV ads, radio ads, things like that saying, you know, here's an issue and we are not going to stand for it, be on the winning side. That could be part of this, you know, Trump saying, hey, most people agree with me — four out of five Americans agree with me, which is not true. And it also, you know, in in his specific case, sort of perpetuates, you know, the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen. I think people should keep in mind that this is just a drum he bangs all the time. And it’s been proven false.

There's been no conclusive evidence or proof that the election was rigged in his favor. In fact, even his former Attorney General Bill Barr said that. It's important to know no matter how many inaccurate quotes or percentages he puts out there, his claim about the 2020 election is not true.

Terry: So how did you rate former President Trump’s claim about how much his false statement about the election is catching on?

Specht: We rated it false, without any credible poll or group of polls. There's no evidence to support this claim. It's possible he got mixed up with a different headline, so that's why this isn't a pants-on-fire — which we typically reserve for more ridiculous claims that people know to be false. You know, in this case, there was that possibility that he misread one of these headlines. So that's why he's rated false.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.