Americans Aren’t Sure U.S. System Can Fix Long-Term Problems, Poll Shows

Americans have little faith in the U.S. political system, can address long-term challenges, and are skeptical the nation remains committed to foundational tenets such as the free market, majority rule and tolerance, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

The lukewarm assessment is marked by sharp partisan differences. A majority of Democrats believe American democracy needs a complete overhaul or major changes, while a majority of Republicans say it is working well or needs only minor adjustments. Republicans, unlike Democrats, say they have faith in the office of the presidency and see America as a leader on the world stage.

But on many points, both parties hold a souring view of how the federal government is functioning. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats both say America’s best years are behind it, rather than ahead, the Journal notes.

The results come just ahead of the nation’s 243rd birthday and as partisan divisions grow. President Donald Trump’s tenure has been marked by extraordinary clashes with Congress and the courts on his proposed border wall, trade, budgeting and congressional oversight. Those battles, the survey suggests, have shaken confidence in government institutions.

The President receives the greatest share of the blame for partisanship in Washington, with 43% saying his administration deserves much or all of the responsibility. By contrast, 34% primarily blamed Republicans in Congress, while 30% cited congressional Democrats.

Of those surveyed, 44% say the nation is able to overcome political divisions to solve problems, while 53% say it can’t. Almost two-thirds think government is unable to address long-term challenges.

Commitment to democracy and majority rule are viewed by 32% as a fairly or extremely accurate fundamental idea to associate with the nation, down from 53% in 1998. Half of the respondents say commitment to free markets is a good description of the country, down from 68% two decades ago.

The share who see the U.S. as “tolerant of others with different beliefs and lifestyles” has also dropped, from 35% to 26%.

More than four in 10 say they have stopped talking politics with a friend or family member because they know the person doesn’t share their views. One in five say they have blocked or unfriended someone on Facebook or elsewhere because of their political opinions; with women, younger people and Democrats most likely to do so.

At the same time, politics have surged in importance in the lives of many Americans, with 87% saying it is important to them, including 44% who said it is very important.

Those are far larger shares than when Gallup asked a similar question almost three decades ago. Half of Americans in 1990 said politics was important in their lives, with 16% calling it very important, the Journal adds.

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