Pew Study: Now We Don’t Trust Ourselves to Make the Right Electoral Choices

Today we renew our Politiqs series with a few highlights from a Pew Research article that was first published when most of us were taking some down time after the fall elections. Admittedly, this is less than encouraging information—but we felt compelled to begin this new year’s series on voter behavior research with this sobering study.  

Pew’s 11/23/15 analysis on trust in the federal government was not earth shattering: The erosion in trust that began in the Vietnam era and accelerated during Watergate has continued. Fifty years ago more than three-quarters of Americans surveyed said they “trusted the federal government to do what was right”. Now only 19% agree. That percentage has fallen from 26% at the beginning of President Obama’s first term. 

While these findings are depressing, they aren't surprising. In fact, they go a long way in explaining the appeal of the Trump candidacy. Some Americans are so angry and distrustful of our government that they blindly follow the master showman.

More troubling is voters’ decline in confidence in the wisdom of the electorate to make the right political decisions. More than two-thirds of voters in 1967 had trust in the American people’s political decisions. Less than a decade ago it still stood at 57%. By late 2015 Americans confidence in our political decisions had fallen to 34%. 

Not only do we not trust our government. We don’t trust each other.

This decline in trust cuts across partisan boundaries; only 37% of Democrats, 36% of Republicans, and 23% of Independents said they trusted the political wisdom of the American people, each down at least 20 points from 2007. 

Much of this can be explained by the increasing partisanship of the American electorate. In April of last year, then-Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush had a favorable-unfavorable rating among Democrats of 17-66, while Mrs. Clinton had a favorable-unfavorable rating among Republicans of 15-81. Compare this to 2008, when 52% of Democrats had a positive opinion of John McCain and 39% of Republicans had a positive opinion of Barack Obama. 

After witnessing a sampling of TV ads in IA and NH, we don’t expect any surge in the collective confidence of Americans that we are making the right political decisions. We leave you with a link to the Pew Study in hopes that perhaps you can find a silver lining in their study. We invite you to join our voter behavior research conversation on social media with the hastag #chismstrategies.


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