In just under three weeks, Americans will be headed to the polls to cast their ballot in various races across the country. Voters in Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Maine, Louisiana and New York will be voting on various referendums, of which pertain to issues including abortion, marijuana and the environment. Kentucky and Mississippi are looking to elect their governors in two heated races. In Virginia, all seats in the House of Delegates and State Senate are up for grabs, just as the State Assembly and State Senate are up for election in New Jersey.
The results from this 2023 election cycle will undoubtedly act as a bellwether for the 2024 presidential election, but how are voters feeling about the state of our nation’s politics as they head to the polls?
A Pew Research Center report conducted in September found that Americans have a “dismal” view of the politics in the nation – only 4% of respondents believe the current political system is working extremely or very well. This view isn’t solely confined to regard for political parties; Americans have a negative view of the government, Congress and its operations, politicians and candidates, political institutions, the Electoral College – the list goes on and on. When one question asked respondents to identify strong points of the nation’s political system, 22% wrote “nothing.”
The report contains data collected from two different surveys: one from June 5-11 among 5,115 adults, and the second from July 10-16, 2023 among 8,480 adults.
How do Americans view the current political system, and each other?
The makeup of our current political system encompasses quite a lot. Whether it be the separation of powers, our electoral system, Congress, the campaigns process, the two-party system, etc., politics in the United States is an enduring complexity
The question is, how does the public view such a structure? Results show quite negatively.
86% of respondents believe Republicans and Democrats both prioritize partisan battles instead of finding solutions to the problems that plague the nation. With such a large portion of respondents harboring such a belief, it makes sense that when asked what the biggest problem in the American political system is, 31% answered “politicians,” while 22% stated “polarization.”
These statistics only exacerbate a bleak revelation: 63% of adults report that they have little or no confidence in the future of the U.S. political system.
What is U.S. public opinion toward the federal government and their state government?
To add to the previous despondent data, only 16% of Americans claim to trust the federal government to “do the right thing” always or most of the time. This statistic has fallen by 8% from when Pew Research Center polled the U.S. public in 2020.
In addition to hesitancies surrounding trust, Americans are expressing significant exasperation with the federal government. 59% of Americans feel frustrated toward the federal government and 21% voice anger toward the institution’s operations.
In what is clearly a driving factor at the polls, 54% of Americans are extremely or very concerned about the retention of rights and protections as selectively granted through varying state governments. 29% of respondents express some concern over this issue, while 16% are not too concerned, or have no concern.
How do Americans feel toward each branch of government?
To no one’s surprise, more than seven out of ten (72%) Americans have an unfavorable view of Congress; by contrast, 26% of respondents – both Republicans and Democrats – claim to have a favorable view of the legislative branch.
Perhaps Americans can find unity through their disfavor toward Congress’ operations, as more than three-fourths of respondents believe that our elected representatives do a somewhat or very bad job maintaining the following duties: listening to the concerns of the people in their district (76%), keeping their personal financial interests separate from their legislative work (81%), fostering bipartisan relations (84%) and taking accountability (86%).
Alongside our nation’s legislative branch, public perception and opinion of the Supreme Court is highly negative compared to years past: 54% of Americans have an unfavorable view of our nation’s highest court (only 44% of Americans view it favorably, a statistic that has dropped by 26% percentage points since 2020, when 70% of Americans viewed the Supreme Court favorably).
The report from Pew Research Center shows that “through 2022, an average of 82% of Democrats approved of how Biden had handled his job as president, while just 7% of Republicans did.” According to the survey, this opposing party approval rating demonstrates a stark difference to that of the Democrats when George W. Bush was in office (he had a 23% approval rate from Democrats) and when Bill Clinton was president (he had a 27% approval rate from Republicans). This data is a clear indication of the hyperpolarization and political tensions that exist between the two reigning political parties today.
How do Republicans, Democrats and Independents view each other and their parties?
A similar share of respondents from the survey had unfavorable views regarding the two main political parties in the United States – 61% view the Republican Party unfavorably, with 60% of Americans viewing the Democratic Party in the same manner.
It may be interesting to readers to learn that a decent portion of respondents who identify themselves with either of the two parties claim that their party “too often makes excuses for members with hateful views” – 48% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats.
47% of Independents report a desire for more political parties in the midst of a clear two-party reigning majority; however, when survey respondents were posed the question of whether having more political parties would be a solution to various issues within our political system, there was a similar share of respondents on either side of the response – 26% believe more political parties would helpful, whereas 24% believe more parties would only make things more difficult.
Going into 2024
With the political landscape of 2024 beginning to take form, the recent presidential debates and the results from the upcoming November elections will serve as a preview of the issues voters prioritize, just as turnout at the polls will also indicate how passionate voters are for change. Pew’s September survey revealed that only 44% of Americans believe voting is an extremely or very effective way to change the country for the better. 21% believe it is not very or not at all effective.
When examining the field of candidates running for the presidency in 2024, only 35% of survey respondents claim to be satisfied with those who have entered the race. These candidates and their campaigns have a tough public to persuade: 71% of Americans believe recent presidential campaigns haven’t been informative, 77% believe they have been focused on the wrong issues, 72% say they have lasted too long, and 78% say the nominees were not good candidates.