Majority of Americans are worried about the state of democracy, new survey finds

  • Julia Agos

(Harrisburg) – Most Americans think democracy is facing serious challenges or ​is in crisis, according to a new nationwide poll from the nonpartisan research group Public Agenda 

The poll was conducted on the heels of a chaotic election cycle and the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol. 

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to think democracy is in crisis​, by 48 to 25 percent. In 2018, more Democrats than Republicans thought that.  

The views of Independents, on the other hand, haven’t changed much on that issue. 

Chris Nestor, 72, of Reading is a registered Independent and was one of the more than 1,200 American adults who responded to the poll.  

He thinks longtime politicians use political divisions to hold on to power, and that term limits could help solve the problem. 

“Politicians from the state level, all the way up to the federal level are completely out of touch with, quote-unquote, the rest of us,” he said.  

Survey director David Schleifer said the party out of power is more likely to say democracy is in crisis.  

The poll also took stock of people’s views on voting and election law reform. Responding to a question that asked if voting can be made simpler and more convenient, while also preventing fraud, Democrats and Republicans alike felt both were possible. 

Though Democrats would rather prioritize making voting hassle free, Republicans zero in on security as the priority — despite the 2020 election being widely analyzed to have been free and fair. 

The poll was conducted amid GOP efforts in several states, including Pennsylvania, to amend voting law in the name of election security. 

Referring to those efforts across the U.S., Schleifer said, “These are politicians that are using what they may see as an opportunity to enact these laws, whether or not those laws are what their constituents actually want.” 

He said this highlights the differing properties for politicians and average Americans.  

A recent Franklin & Marshall College poll found nearly 60 percent of survey takers said Pennsylvania’s voting laws should be changed.  

Among the group of nearly 450 registered voters, 74 percent want people to show ID each time they vote, and 81 percent said signatures on mail-in ballots should be required to match what’s on file at county election offices. 

The F&M poll had a 6.4 percent margin of error because of the size of the survey group. 

The Public Agenda survey was conducted May 24 to 27, 2021. Researchers calibrated responses so results would represent the U-S population. 

Because of the type of sample used, survey analysts refer to “credibility interval,” rather than margin of error. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all respondents.

The survey has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 6.4 percentage points for Republicans, plus or minus 6.4 percentage points for Independents, and plus or minus 7.2 percentage points for politically unaffiliated individuals.

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