Just in case you needed something else to be concerned over, check out the recent 2018 American Institutional Confidence Poll, published by the Washington Post. There are some interesting bits in the list of institutions which are ranked by party affiliation as to their favorability, but the big ticket item in this poll is the perception of the entire concept of democracy. One might assume that, living in the United States, that might be the one thing everyone could get onboard with. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Is anyone happy with democracy?
Yes. But only 40 percent of respondents reported being “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with “how democracy is working in the United States.” Even if we remove the quarter of respondents who report being “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” with democracy, only around 53 percent view American democracy positively. This level of satisfaction is consistent across various groups when we divide the sample by race, age, region of the country or education level.
But there is one way that satisfaction varies, and profoundly: by partisanship. The poll finds that 76 percent of self-identified Republicans are satisfied with American democracy, compared with just 44 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents.
As the article goes on to suggest, at least some measure of satisfaction might be attributed to how well your party is doing at the moment. With Republicans holding both the Executive and Legislative branches at the moment, some Democrats might feel that democracy isn’t working out so well for them. But less than half of Democrats were able to say that they were at least somewhat satisfied with living under a Democratic form of government? That’s a bit much to swallow.
Frankly, I would attribute this more to the rising desire for socialism among younger Democrats. In fact, even if the Democrats regain complete control after 2020 (shudder), I’d wager that their satisfaction with the concept of Democracy won’t pop back up to anywhere near the 76% currently registered by the GOP. (And while we’re on the subject, what’s wrong with the other 24% of you Republicans?)
The second, longer portion of the survey has to do with institutions, and they cover both governmental and private entities. You can read the full list yourself, but a few of the highlights seem telling. For each institution, they asked Democrats and Republicans to assign an approval value on a scale of 20, with 1 being the highest approval rating and 20 being the lowest.
Democratic approval of the Executive Branch is currently 20 (the lowest) while Republicans give it a 4. That one I can see flipping almost entirely when the White House changes hands to the other party, but it also tells me that most of the respondents are rating the current occupant rather than the institution of the presidency itself. Everyone hates Congress (D=19, R=16) and nobody much cares for either of the major political parties, with both receiving a score of 18.
Conversely, the military is popular on both sides of the aisle (D=3, R=1). The party divide flares back up with the rating for “local police” where Democrats seem to grudgingly give them a 9 and the GOP awards them a 2. Take from that what you will. Predictably, Democrats give “religion” a 16 while Republicans score it at 5.
Finally, we might find some bigger hints in the way people view some of these companies. Everyone loves Amazon (D=1, R=3) and everyone hates Facebook (D=17, R=19). But the partisan divide shows up with Google. Democrats give them a 4 while Republicans give them a 12. That’s a pretty significant gap. But you should probably ask yourself one question. If Google skewed all their search results to be favorable to conservatives instead of liberals, would those approval numbers be flipped?