CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Denying Democracy: Exploring the Electoral Penalty for Election Denial in the 2022 House Midterms

Sarem Ahmed Khan Leghari, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Daniel Hopkins

Date of this Version: 01 May 2023



It is critical to assess the capacity and willingness of voters to check politicians’ anti-democratic behaviors. The 2022 midterms were the first nationwide opportunity for voters to hold Republican candidates accountable for endorsing President Trump’s “Big Lie,” which severely threatened democracy. 60% of GOP candidates in the 2022 midterms were election deniers. Previous research has either studied which congressmen objected to the electoral college’s certification or assessed the electoral penalty in statewide races in 2022. This analysis employs OLS regression modeling to explore the electoral penalty for election denial across 404 House midterm elections. First, using an OLS regression model, I explore the factors influencing GOP candidates’ election denial. Election deniers were more likely to run in districts that contained voters which were more racially diverse, less educated, and more supportive of Trump in 2020. Second, the politicization of election denial significantly blunts voters’ capacity to electorally penalize election deniers. As a result, these candidates face a limited electoral penalty. I attribute this limited penalty to bipartisan pro-democracy messaging from political elites and persuasion effects among independent voters. This electoral penalty doubled in districts that were either highly competitive or significantly favored Trump in 2020. Third, while election-accepting GOP incumbents do not face more competitive primaries, prominently visible critics of election deniers mostly lost their primaries. These findings indicate that despite this limited electoral penalty, the GOP has strong incentives to continue defending Trump’s “Big Lie.” The primary losses of prominent pro-democracy voices exacerbate the GOP’s turn towards election denial.


American Politics | Models and Methods | Political Science

Suggested Citation

Leghari, Sarem Ahmed Khan, "Denying Democracy: Exploring the Electoral Penalty for Election Denial in the 2022 House Midterms" 01 May 2023. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted:01 May 2023




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