News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Big Picture

Most back major democracy fixes but skeptical of system's future

Solid majorities support many of the most prominent proposals for making democracy work better, but in almost all cases Democrats are bigger boosters than Republicans, Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling shows.

But the latest poll, out Friday, also adds to the roster of national opinion surveys laying bare how Americans have lost faith in their government's ability to address the nation's big challenges.

Almost two-thirds of respondents expressed that sentiment. And, in a rare bipartisan accord, those saying the nation's best years have passed outnumber those confident in a brighter future, 51 percent to 44 percent, with Democrats, Republicans and independents all statistically in sync in those views.

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed two weeks ago, just 44 percent professed belief in the nation's capacity to overcome political divisions to solve problems, while 53 percent said it could not.


In addition, commitment to democracy and majority rule were described by just 32 percent as fairly or extremely accurate fundamental ideas to associate with the nation – a plunge from 53 percent two decades ago.

It is at this point the partisan split becomes wide. Among Democrats, 56 percent believe American democracy needs a complete overhaul or major changes, while a comparable 58 percent of Republicans say the opposite – the system is working well or needs only minor tinkering.

As a result, more Democrats than Republicans professed support for some specific changes in the system, saying they would improve democracy "a lot" or "just some," although there was sufficient consensus to yield majority support in the poll:

  • Nonpartisan commissions drawing congressional and state legislative districts: 66 percent
  • Election Day as a national holiday: 66 percent
  • Automatic voter registration for every adult citizen: 65 percent
  • Term limits for Supreme Court justices: 60 percent
  • Eliminating the use of the Electoral College in deciding presidential elections: 56 percent
  • Federal funding of congressional campaigns: 54 percent

The question about deciding the presidency using the national popular vote, which would have made Hillary Clinton president in 2016 and Al Gore president in 2000, was the most polarizing: 81 percent of Democrats back the idea but only 32 percent of Republicans agree.

The proposal with the most bipartisan support was term limits for members of Congress, supported by 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats.

"Most Americans believe that Democracy in America needs some real work," Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic pollster who works with a GOP partner on the NBC/WSJ surveys, told the paper. "America is not a house divided – and this is not a teardown – but it is a house in need of a lot of work on its foundation and repairing significant structural damage."

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Congress
RepresentUs

RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.

Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez still discussing revolving door bill

Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?

To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."

The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.

The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.

Keep reading... Show less

Adults of all ages agree: There's little confidence in elected leaders

But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders

Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.

While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."

Keep reading... Show less