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2023 Polls Show American Institutions Are Wrestling with Pigs

William L. Kovacs

May 2023

2023 Polls Show American Institutions Are Wrestling with Pigs

On May 10, 2023, a Rasmussen survey found 62% of voters do not believe the government spends money wisely. Only 25% believe the government is careful in how it spends taxpayer money. A recent Gallup poll comparing trust in our institutions between 2021 and 2022 found that Americans lost trust in every institution. Trust in the president suffered the greatest loss, 15%. The U.S. Supreme Court was next with an 11% loss of trust. Big business, tv news, and Congress had the lowest levels of trust, 14%, 11%, and 7%, respectively.  Gallup has been measuring the level of trust in American institutions since 1973, and these findings are its lowest levels of trust.

Gallup found only two institutions, small businesses, and the military, having the trust of a majority of Americans.

In January 2023, the political research group, More in Common released its poll on the most common emotions of voters about politics after the 2022 mid-term elections.  It found the five most common feelings about politics in America are frustration (74%), and disappointment (71%). Exhaustion (61%), disgust (57%), and anger (53%).

These 2023 survey results track other recent results:

  • Pew Research Center finds only two in ten Americans believe they can trust the government in Washington to the what is right “just about 2% of the time and 19% most of the time. Trust in government is down from 75% in 1958.
  • Gallup finds only 7% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress, down 5% in just one year.
  • Rasmussen finds 59% of likely voters believe members of Congress care more about what the media thinks is more important than what the voters think.
  • Gallup finds only 14% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the criminal justice system.
  • Gallup finds only 16% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers.
  • Rasmussen finds 58% of voters agree media is the “Enemy of the People.”
  • A survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found the U.S. ranks last of 46 nations in media trust, at 29% trust.
  • A Gallup Poll finds 84% of Americans believe media is to blame for our political divide.
  • A Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos poll found 90% of Americans “…are sick and tired of being so divided.”
  • Gallup finds only 37% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in religious institutions.
  • Only 37% of likely voters think the country is heading in the right direction.
  • Pew Research Center finds within states; there is almost complete division over policy matters between rural and urban areas.
  • Pew Research Center finds two-thirds of Americans are “worn out” by the amount of political news.

The Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service Civility Survey found voters across all demographics believe “…political, racial and class divisions are getting worse.” At the same time, 80% of voters want both parties to find “compromise and common ground”; however, 67% believe the U.S. is two-thirds of the way to the edge of a civil war.

Is there a message in these polls?

One insight from the Georgetown survey is key to understanding why Americans think as they do. It found “a strong correlation between where people get information and how they view key issues and figures.” For example, Fox News viewers have a favorable/unfavorable rating of 17/78 for Black Lives Matter. Non-Fox viewers, however, have a 59/35 favorable/unfavorable rating. Dr. Anthony Fauci has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 20/69 among Fox viewers and a 64/27 favorable/unfavorable rating among non-Fox viewers. The news channel one watches is now the message.

A February 2023 Gallup/Knight Foundation poll confirms Americans do not trust the media or at least the media watched by those they disagree with. Only 26% of Americans have a positive view of the media. 50% of Americans believe the national media intends to mislead, and only 26% of Americans believe the media works in the public interest.

A May 2023 AP poll finds three-quarters of Americans believe the media increases polarization in the nation.

The polling is overwhelming that Americans do not trust their institutions. A strong underlying reason for their distrust is media bias. The media uses its vast resources to intentionally divide the nation to achieve the agenda of the political party it supports. The media no longer delivers the news and needed information; instead, it is an active participant in politics.

A synthesis of the many polls would conclude the American people want their government to work together on matters impacting their day-to-day lives but are willing to accept conflict on non-bread-and-butter social issues. Unfortunately, due to the symbiotic relationship between media and politicians, there can never be compromise since both groups believe they have too much to gain from polarization. The result is constant conflict and the inability of the government to work for the people it is to serve. The American people are smart; they recognize this fact.  62% of voters “say neither of the two major parties adequately represents them.

Congress, the federal government, and the media are adversarial to citizens. Politicians and the media set the policy. Citizens are merely commodities that pay taxes so the politicians and the media can live well on their money.

Without trust in institutions, it is difficult for average Americans to believe in America. With American losing trust in every major institution, the advice from George Bernard Shaw brilliantly captures today’s sentiment, “Never wrestle with a pig because you’ll get dirty and the pig likes it.” Except for small businesses and the military, Americans believe all institutions are wrestling with pigs.

If citizens sincerely believe what they tell the pollsters, why don’t they use their votes to change the system? If institutions want to be trusted, why don’t they serve the purposes they were established for? If the media wants to be trusted, why doesn’t it report the news accurately and fairly and let its bias come out on the opinion pages? All leads to the existential question – does anyone care about the future of the United States?