Poll Shows Great Discontent With US Political System

(CN) — Most Americans believe the federal government needs significant changes for it to work today, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

The 158-page report, “The Public, the Political System and American Democracy,” is subtitled, “Most say ‘design and structure’ of government need big changes.”

Pew pollsters say Americans generally see the country as failing to live up to its ideals and values. Sixty-one percent of respondents said sweeping changes are needed to the U.S. political system.

While 84 percent of respondents said it is important that the rights and freedom of all people be respected, only 47 percent believe that is actually happening in the country.

Large majorities believe that elected officials do not face serious consequences for misconduct, and that people who contribute to political campaigns have an outsized influence on government.

An overwhelming majority (77 percent) supports limiting the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns.

Americans have very little confidence that elected officials act in the best interests of the public. Only 3 percent of said they have a “great deal” of confidence, and only 22 percent have a “fair amount” of confidence in elected officials.

The public has more confidence in the press to act in its best interests. Forty percent of Americans say they have a fair amount or great deal of confidence in the news media to do what is best for society.

Pew researchers also found that Americans “have doubts” about whether President Donald Trump respects the country’s democratic institutions and traditions. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said Trump has “no respect at all,” and 25 percent said the president does not have “too much” respect.

Most Americans (76 percent) oppose the idea of giving U.S. presidents more power, and a majority (55 percent) supports changing the way presidents are elected, so that popular vote, not the electoral college, selects the winning candidate.

Fifty-five percent said the U.S. Supreme Court should make its rulings based on what the Constitution means now.

In surveys conducted between 2006 and 2016, the public was more evenly divided on whether the Supreme Court should rule based on what the Constitution meant when it was written, or on what it means today.

Attitudes toward the Supreme Court have improved since reaching 30-year lows in 2015. Today, 71 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats say they have a favorable view of the court.

Four years ago, there were no partisan differences in the public’s opinions of the nation’s political system compared with the systems of other developed countries. Today, 58 percent of Republicans say that the U.S. political system is the best in the world or above average, but only 27 percent of Democrats agree.

Most Americans say the U.S. political system is below average (29 percent) or average (28 percent) compared with the systems in other developed countries.

The Pew report, based on a survey of more than 6,000 American adults conducted between January and March, also examines Americans’ views on what is required to be a good citizen and the tone of political debate in the country.

On that last topic, “About two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) say that personally insulting political opponents is never fair game in politics, while 31 percent say insults are sometimes fair game,” according to the report.

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