Americans Want Their Democracy Changed

January 7th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  A poll in December found that only 5% of Americans say that the U.S. government works fine and needs no changes.  Half the respondents want either a complete overhaul or 'a lot of changes' to the 226 year old government.  The poll found the respondents had a large number of desires for government action and an extremely low expectation of having them addressed.  The Poll was conducted t the University of Chicago by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.   The poll was conducted over five days starting 12 December, involved 1,141 adult respondents from all across the U.S. and has an uncertainty of less than +/-4%.


Follow up:

The Associated Press released the following summation of the poll results:

  • The public wants the government to address a diverse set of policy issues that range from economic problems to social policies to foreign affairs.
  • Health care reform tops the list, followed by unemployment.
  • Broadly based skepticism that government will make progress on key issues
  • Americans envision significant personal challenges but confidence in ability to address them.
  • Technology seen as the biggest change in American life, paired with concern that the quality of American life faces long term decline.

The following table from the report that ranks issues based on the percentage of people who mentioned them needing a lot or a great deal of effort.


Areas in which optimism and pessimism were assessed in shown in th following graphic.  A little over 1/3 are optimistic about our form of government and how it works, while over 60% are pessimistic.  The small percentage missing from a full 100% apparently either refused to answer or had no opinion.


The respondents were somewhat conflicted in what they felt they wanted from government.  From an Associated Press news article about the poll results:

But asked generally about the role of government in society, the AP-NORC Center poll finds Americans divided on how active they want government to be. Half say "the less government the better." However, almost as many (48 percent) say "there are more things that government should be doing."

On the economy, an area historically driven by the private sector, the poll finds a clear public desire for active government. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say "we need a strong government to handle today's complex economic problems."

The idea that the government should be significantly changed is not a new one.  Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1789 letter to James Madison:

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished then in their natural course with those who gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years.

Global Economic Intersection contributor Frank Li has been offering his analysis of needed changes in weekly Opinion columns, such as this article.  He has laid out all his ideas in an excellent book, Saving America, Chinese Style.

Click on the following page display to read the complete report at The Associated Press-NORC  Center for Public Affairs Research.



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