In a comprehensive study conducted by the Pew Research Center from July 10 to July 16, and released on September 13, responses from a sizeable sample of U.S. adults revealed a profound disillusionment among Americans towards the nation’s political landscape. Researchers concluded that citizens were mostly exhausted and disillusioned with politics with many grappling to find viable alternatives to Democrats and Republicans.
The in-depth research by the Pew Center discovered that 65% of respondents admitted feeling persistently drained and exhausted when contemplating politics. The researchers concluded that this widespread exhaustion indicates a broader sentiment of disillusionment with the political sphere. “Yet it is telling that a majority of Americans are unable or unwilling to identify the strong points of the nation’s political system,” Pew researchers wrote.
The study, which highlighted an ever-dwindling faith in the political system, revealed that only 4% of U.S. adults believe the political system is functioning well or very well, while another 23% hold that it operates somewhat adequately. A striking 63% express little to no confidence in the future of the U.S. political system.
The study authors also found what they called a “trust deficit in governmental institutions.” They noted that favorable views of governmental and political institutions have plummeted to historic lows. A mere 16% of respondents claimed to trust the federal government consistently or most of the time. The authors revealed that this level of trust has remained depressingly low for almost two decades, reaching one of the lowest points in nearly seventy years. “As a society, we’ve lost faith in the very institutions meant to represent us,” one survey respondent asserted.
Also, a growing discontent towards both political parties is evident from the research, with 28% expressing unfavorable views of both, the highest percentage in three decades. An equivalent share of adults, 25%, feel inadequately represented by either party. For most of the more than 8,400 respondents in the survey, recent candidate choices have been underwhelming. As the 2024 presidential campaign gains momentum, 63% of Americans express dissatisfaction with the candidates who have emerged thus far. The discontent is mirrored in the broader assessment of political candidates, with only 26% rating their quality as very or somewhat good. “Where are the candidates who truly represent our interests?” questioned another participant.
Reflecting the public’s frustration, significant portions of Americans advocate for changes in the political system. Proposals such as age and term limits, along with eliminating the Electoral College, draw substantial support. “It’s time for a system that truly represents the people, not just the powerful,” declared another survey respondent, who also highlighted the divide and discontent in American politics. Republicans and Democrats were found to agree on one thing in an era of ferocious partisanship: 86% think that the parties prioritize infighting over problem-solving.
The survey underscored the public’s enduring belief that big interests and campaign donors heavily influence politics, with a resounding 72% concurring that a small group of people with selfish interests control the government. Further, views of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President are at historic lows. Approximately 72% hold an unfavorable view of Congress, while 54% harbor negative opinions of the Supreme Court. President Biden’s approval rating still languishes at around 40%, while 63% of Americans said they are dissatisfied with all the current presidential candidates.
Many Americans also believe elected officials have lost touch with their constituents. “Their end goals are personal and not for the betterment of the voters who elected them,” says a man in his 60s. According to survey results, engaged citizens are the most exhausted and angered by politics. “A democracy shouldn’t leave its citizens feeling this weary and angry,” remarked one respondent.
The public also has grown more frustrated with the erosion of respectful debate, with many respondents lamenting the decline in respectful and fact-based political discourse over recent years, reflecting a broader frustration with the state of the nation’s politics. “Nearly half of those who identify as politically independent or with something other than the Democratic or Republican Party view both parties negatively,” researchers found.