What Could Happen If Donald Trump Loses

October 12th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

There's no way around it. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has fallen dramatically in national polls over the last week, leading some to project a landslide victory for his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Even if Trump does lose, however, that doesn't mean his supporters are going to accept the election results.


Journalist Chris Arnade wrote about the potential fallout of a Clinton victory in a tweet thread on Tuesday. He argued that the nominee's defeat will only fuel the conservative outrage that has been building for years.

The idea that Trump supporters would reject the results of the election if Clinton wins might seem farfetched, but Trump has already, repeatedly, played into voters' fears about a "rigged" election. He and members of his campaign have questioned the veracity of national polling; they've accused the media of bias; Trump has even called on supporters to effectively police ballot stations on Election Day to monitor potential voter fraud.

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All of this feeds into a growing distrust of America's political institutions and concerns about the fairness of the country's election system, which is represented most vocally among Trump supporters. And even if they were to accept the election results, at least a quarter of the population "will have zero respect & immense anger towards society" if Clinton wins, Arnade wrote.

Voter confidence in the election process is critical to the U.S. democratic process, Michael Alvarez, a political science professor at Caltech, wrote in The Washington Post:

"Part of the reason that U.S. democracy is so stable — and that citizens accept election results instead of, say, rioting and setting the Capitol on fire — is that most American voters are confident that their ballots are counted accurately in our elections. That’s what we’ve found in our research over the past decade. And that confidence can be improved or harmed by how state and local election officials manage elections — whether their favored candidates win or lose."

There's no way to know for sure how Trump's base will react if he loses. But some Republicans are already cautioning against talk of a "rigged election," Politico reported. After all, experts have already found that voter fraud is extremely rare and allegations of rigged poll results are similarly unfounded. Arnade's point is that that's unlikely to convince some Trump supporters that the election wasn't stolen from him in the event of a Clinton victory.