The strength and stability of democracy has become a subject of intense debate in the United States and around the world. But how do Americans feel about their own democracy? As part of a year-long effort to study “Facts, Trust and Democracy” Pew Research Center has conducted a major survey of public views of the U.S. political system and American democracy. The survey finds that while Americans are in broad agreement on important ideals relating to democracy in the U.S., they think the nation is falling short in realizing many of these ideals.
Here are some of the survey’s other major findings:
1Democracy seen as working well, but most want “significant” changes. About six-in-ten Americans (58%) say democracy is working well in the U.S., though just 18% say it is working very well. At the same time, a majority supports making sweeping changes to the political system: 61% say “significant changes” are needed in the fundamental “design and structure” of the U.S. government to make it work in current times.
3About a third say “who the president is” makes a big difference in their personal lives. Most Americans say “who the president is” has a big impact in areas such as national security and U.S. standing in the world, and 63% say it makes a big difference in the country’s mood. Fewer (34%) say who the president is makes a big difference in their personal lives. Women (40%) are more likely than men (29%) to say the person who is president makes a big difference in their personal lives.
5Most Americans say policymakers should heed the will of the majority even if they and their supporters differ. Three-quarters of Americans say that in a hypothetical scenario a governor should sign a bill that has support from most people in their state, even if most of his or her supporters oppose it. But smaller majorities of Republicans and Democrats hold this view when the governor is a member of their own party.
7 Government and politics seen as working better locally than nationally. Two-thirds of those surveyed (67%) have a favorable opinion of their local government, compared with 35% for the federal government. In addition, nearly three-quarters (73%) say the quality of candidates running for local office in recent elections has been good; just 41% say the same about the quality of presidential candidates.