WASHINGTON - May 15 - Americans have low confidence in most government institutions and see more partisan conflict in politics today, but they see more compromise among the parties and competition in Congressional elections as key ways to improve government. That is according to a new poll, "Partisanship Up, Confidence Down: Americans want Compromise and Competition" conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and released today by the Council for Excellence in Government.
The poll--released in conjunction with the presentation of the prestigious Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service to former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton in a late afternoon event--also found that few Americans are ever asked to consider working in public service. Significant portions would find working in government appealing, if they were asked.
Other key findings of the poll include:
- Americans have low confidence in most government institutions--Only the military gets a vote of confidence among several different government institutions. More than 70% of respondents say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military, including nearly half who have a great deal of confidence. Following the military, Americans express the greatest confidence in the Supreme Court. Just 16% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress, 45% have just some confidence, and 37% have very little. These ratings are among the lowest received by Congress since Gallup started tracking this data in 1975.
- The only American institution to receive a lower confidence rating than Congress is the media. Just 13% of Americans express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the press, a sharp decline from 2002, when that figure was at 30%.
- Respondents see more partisan conflict. When asked whether they think Republicans and Democrats in Washington have been working together to solve problems, or bickering and opposing one another more than usual, 75% say that they have been bickering and opposing one another.
- Americans see themselves as the most bipartisan, yet they think that the public overall is slightly more partisan than they are individually. And they consider both the legislative and executive branches more partisan than bipartisan. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans say that in general, the way the media reports on politics and current events hurts bipartisanship in this country.
- More than 75% of Americans would prefer their representatives to work in a bipartisan way and be willing to compromise with others to make progress on important problems, rather than to stand firm with their party on issues and stick to their principles without compromise (20%).
- Fifty-seven percent of the public believes that greater competition in congressional elections would do more to improve government because it would make members of Congress more accountable to voters. Just 31% believe that government is improved more when members of Congress are reelected and have experience getting things done.
- People of all ages are interested in public service, but are rarely asked to consider working in it. More than three-quarters (77%) of Americans say that no one has ever asked them to think about working in government, even though thirty-five percent say that working in government would be very or fairly appealing.
- Thirty percent of people say that they trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time, up one percentage point from 2000, but down 20 percentage points from right after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This figure was at its lowest in 1994 at 21 percent.
A six-page summary with graphs and charts is at: http://www.excelgov.org/admin/FormManager/filesuploading/partisan_politics.pdf
The nationwide, random digit dialed telephone survey among 600 adults was conducted from May 5 to May 7, 2006. The overall margin of error for results is +4 percentage points, and is larger among certain subgroups.
The Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service was established in early 2000 to recognize extraordinary, sustained accomplishment and integrity in government service and to encourage achievement by future public leaders at the level Richardson demonstrated in service to his country. Previous winners include former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, former Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and George Shultz.
The Council for Excellence in Government is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to improve the performance of government all all levels, and to increase citizen participation, understanding and trust in government.