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Americans still believe in democracy, but are on the edge of a crisis of confidence about the performance of US democracy, according to a pioneering new, bipartisan study, carried out by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, in partnership with Republican pollster Whit Ayres, and his firm, North Star Opinion Research.
The study was jointly sponsored by Freedom House, the Penn Biden Center, and the George W. Bush Institute. It shows that while there has been no recent decline in the share of Americans who want to live in a democracy, a 55% majority believe America’s democracy is weak, and a 68% super-majority believe it is getting weaker. Americans are deeply concerned by the corrosive roles that political polarization, big money in politics, and racial inequality have on the faith in the country’s political system.
The study is path-breaking in that it goes beyond measures of attitudes toward democracy, and also shows how leaders and activists can restore faith in American democracy. There are encouraging signs here; the study shows that Americans respond strongly to messages that stress the need for civic engagement to prevent a whittling away of our democratic freedoms. It also shows that large majorities support reforms that will strengthen democracy – from limits on big money in politics, to reforms that ease racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, to rules that make it easier to vote. And it shows that large majorities continue to support US efforts to support democracy and human rights abroad.