The latest bipartisan George Washington University Battleground Poll rightfully received media attention because of its depressing data. There is historic political pessimism and cynicism. But something is more troubling than the data on the dire views of Americans about their elected representatives and government. It is that 72 percent of voters still believe that “voting gives people like me some say about how the government runs things.” Unbelievable! Such confidence in a system that has failed them.
Despite untrustworthy elected officials and a dysfunctional government that takes care of the upper class more than everyone else, Americans retain still believe in their democracy. This logical absurdity – or delusional state – is best explained by avoidance of the pain of cognitive dissonance. Americans resist the reality that they are living in a sham representative democracy where the rule of law is a growing fiction.
It should be noted (but was not in the media coverage) that 75 percent of the likely voters were 45 or older, with a third retired. That makes the results even more unsettling. They should know better than to keep believing they can vote the nation into a better condition. Self-identified Republicans were 41 percent, Democrats 42 percent, and Independents 15 percent.
Consider these reasons for giving up on voting and elections under the grip of the two major parties: Some 53 percent have an unfavorable view of politicians, with 55 percent believing that most elected officials are untrustworthy. A majority of 52 percent disapproves of the performance of the Democrats in Congress and 61 percent disapprove of Republicans there. An incredible 93 percent feels that lawmakers in Washington put partisan politics first compared with citizens. But the biggest shift in voter opinion is that 71 percent think their own Member of Congress puts partisan politics first compared with them, with 63 percent feeling strongly that way.
For the big picture: Seventy-percent are now convinced that the country is off on the wrong track – and 58 percent feel strongly that way. This is the worst score recorded in the history of the Battleground survey. Democrats are universally agreed about this point, but so are 71 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans.
A plurality of 38 percent believes their children will be worse off in the future and only a third said they "think their own children will be better off than they are right now — a drop of 7 points since January." Pessimism is worst among white Americans: Only 29 percent believe that their children will be better off; 38 percent believe their children will be worse off.