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America’s distrust of Washington is a five-alarm political crisis

There is no shortage of pressing challenges facing the nation — the debt limit, inflation, the southern border, and surging violent crime rates are just a few.  

Yet, recent polling by Schoen Cooperman Research reveals a precipitous drop in Americans’ confidence in our government, the two major political parties and each side’s ability to solve the nation’s problems.  

Just 28 percent of registered voters we surveyed believe the country is headed in the right direction — down from 41 percent in December 2021 — while nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say the U.S. is on the wrong track.  

Further, a majority of the electorate has an unfavorable view of the current Democratic president (52 percent), as well as of the former Republican president (52 percent), who could well face each other in 2024.  

Our data ultimately underscores the electoral and political challenges facing both parties ahead of next year’s elections: While Democrats are viewed as inept and ineffective, Republicans are seen as extreme and self-interested. 

The electorate’s pessimistic outlook vis-à-vis the state of the country certainly doesn’t bode well for Democrats, who still control both the White House and the Senate, and held a majority in the House until just one month ago.  

Accordingly, our latest poll found that voters have little faith in Democrats’ ability to address key issues: the economy, immigration and inflation. Moreover, trust in Democrats has either declined or remained stagnant since our polling in March 2022 and December 2021, signaling that the party is struggling to get its message across. 

This is especially true in the context of the economy and inflation, which are arguably Biden’s and Democrats’ greatest political vulnerabilities, as the electorate broadly trusts Republicans (49 percent) over Democrats (36 percent) to manage the economy.  

Voters continue to prioritize the economy and inflation as their top issue priorities, yet only one-quarter rate the current state of the economy as “excellent” or “good,” and 71 percent believe inflation has worsened over the past year, despite the Federal Reserve imposing historic interest rate hikes. Yet, ironically, those same rate hikes may bring about the recession that 85 percent of voters are concerned the U.S. will enter in the next year. 

Beyond the economy, roughly two-thirds of voters believe crime and gun violence have worsened over the past year (65 percent) and that the migrant crisis at the southern border has worsened (62 percent).  

Further, voters widely trust Republicans over Democrats to lower the crime rate (49 percent to 31 percent) and slightly trust the GOP more to address immigration (42 percent to 38 percent). 

This is not to say that voters believe that Republicans have the will or the ability to lead more effectively than Democrats. In fact, voters are dubious that House Republicans are interested in governing at all.  

When asked to identify what House Republicans’ top priorities will be, a plurality (39 percent) cites investigating Biden and other Democrats, while the second-most-cited priority, cutting federal spending ranks in a distant second place (24 percent). 

The Republican Party’s disappointing performance in the midterm elections underscores the risks to their viability if the party continues prioritizing political vendettas and personal agendas over governing. Despite an overwhelmingly favorable backdrop in the midterms, the GOP failed to take control of the Senate and was barely able to secure a majority in House. 

Thus, if Republicans continue fanning the flames of extremism, recent history suggests that voters will reject the GOP at the polls, even if they are unhappy with Democratic policies. 

But at the same time, Democrats shouldn’t take for granted their overperformance in the midterms — which was more the result of voters rejecting the far-right, rather than embracing Democratic policies — as the party clearly faces challenges due to their perceived mishandling of the economy, crime and immigration. 

There is clearly a political incentive for both parties to compromise with the other side and advance real solutions to the many urgent matters facing the country, and the first and foremost concern should be averting a default on U.S. debt.  

Whichever party voters perceive to be impeding the work of government will be the party that faces severe electoral consequences in 2024. 

Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. They are co-authors of the book, “America: Unite or Die.” 

Tags Biden Crime in the United States federal spending immigration policy political extremism Politics of the United States US economy

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