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Confidence in US Democracy Hits Near-Record Low

A new Gallup survey shows that only 44% of Americans have some level of confidence in politicians holding or running for office.

That result rivals the record low of 42% in 2016, Gallup said Thursday.

Meanwhile, only a small majority (55%) said they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in fellow Americans making judgments about issues — the lowest number to date, though similar to 56% in both 2016 and 2020.

Gallup said the trends, dating back to 1972 (for politicians) and 1974 (for the American people), reflect a continuing decline in confidence in politicians and voters over the ensuing decades.

“Americans’ confidence in institutions, government and its agencies has suffered over the past year, but these ratings are also low from a long-term perspective,” Gallup said.

“These collective findings reflect a larger cynicism toward governmental institutions and the figures who represent and direct them — as well as the U.S. voters who put them in decision-making roles.”

Gallup added that Republicans and independents, in particular, have become less trusting of politicians during the past 13 years — widening the distance between them and Democrats.

Americans consistently have been more likely to express trust in voters than in politicians, but both trends have generally receded during both the 2000s and 2010s.

Confidence in politicians has fallen 24 percentage points from its peak in 1974, and confidence in the judgments of Americans is down 31 points from its peak in 1976.

Republican’s confidence in politicians nosedived after former President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

Although Gallup has recorded double-digit gaps between the two parties’ levels of confidence in most years since 2008, the 25-point difference between Democrats (64%) and Republicans (39%) in the latest poll is one of the largest gaps to date.

Independents, with 34% expressing some confidence, usually have been the least likely to express trust in politicians.

Confidence in the American people never dropped below 70% between 1974 (the first year Gallup measured) and 2009, but it has not returned to that level since. All but one reading in the past eight years was below 60%.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats since 2001 usually have expressed a greater degree of trust in American voters when a member of their respective party holds the presidency, Gallup said.

Independents have tended to show slightly less confidence in Americans’ judgment than have Democrats and Republicans.

Gallup results were based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 1-17, 2021 with a random sample of 1,005 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Story cited here.