Public trust in the federal government has reached an historic low, and most Americans say they’re deeply unhappy with both major political parties and their choices in 2024 presidential candidates, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
Americans’ approval of Congress, the Supreme Court and other political institutions have been declining for years, driven by a sharp rise in political polarization as Democrats and Republicans increasingly view the opposite party with skepticism or outright disgust.
But the public’s trust in the American political system has hit a low not seen in several decades, the new Pew study found. Just 16 percent of U.S. adults said they trust the federal government, the lowest trust level in nearly 70 years of polling, according to Pew.
The negative attitudes about government and politics cut across party lines, race, age and other demographic factors, and include deep frustrations with the influence of money on elections and partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans.
“The breadth and the scope of the negativity is jarring,” Hannah Hartig, a senior researcher at Pew and one of the study’s co-authors, told Newsweek.
Sixty-five percent of Americans said they always or often feel exhausted by U.S. politics, and 55 percent said politics made them feel angry. Just 10 percent, in comparison, said politics always or often made them feel hopeful.
Asked to use one word or phrase to describe the way they feel about the state of political affairs in the United States, the most popular answers were “divisive,” “corrupt,” and “messy.”
Neither political party was spared from getting a failing grade, the report found.
Only 37 percent of adults who were polled in the survey held a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and just 36 percent said they viewed the Republican Party favorably. The share of adults who dislike both parties is up to 28 percent, more than four times higher than it was in 1994.
The study also raises warning signs for both President Biden and former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination. Pew didn’t mention Biden or Trump in asking respondents if they were satisfied with their choice in presidential candidates.
But just 4 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Republicans said they were extremely or very satisfied with the 2024 field, a sign of the low level of enthusiasm in both parties heading into a primary election season where a Biden-Trump rematch is the most likely outcome.
“Voters are going to be going to the polls in a sizable portion picking the lesser of two evils,” Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster, told Newsweek.
“In 2016, that was obviously helpful for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. When you looked at voters who disliked both candidates, Trump did better,” Blizzard said. “In 2020, among voters who disliked both candidates, Joe Biden did better. It remains to be seen what’ll happen in 2024.”
The public’s dissatisfaction with the 2024 field and growing disgust with both parties has given rise to more interest in third-party candidates, Pew found. Nearly 40 percent of Americans said they wished they had more parties from which to choose.
But a majority of respondents said they don’t think an independent, third-party candidate will win the presidency anytime soon, signaling that despite rising frustration with the two-party system most people hold out little hope for change.
“People are frustrated with politics, because it does feel like we’ve been fighting the same political fights since at least the Reagan era, if not earlier,” Kait Sweeney, a progressive political consultant, told Newsweek.
The Pew report is based on two separate surveys conducted with U.S. adults in June and July of this year. The July 10-16 survey of 8,480 respondents had a margin of error of 1.5 percent. Pew released the findings this week.
The study also found that a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of the Supreme Court, favor term limits for members of Congress, and support ending the Electoral College system.
A vast majority of Americans—both Democrats and Republicans—also said they were in favor of a maximum age limit for federal elected officials. The 2024 election has shone a spotlight on the question of age. Although at 80, Biden is now the oldest person to hold the office in U.S. history, if Trump, who is currently 77, wins, he would be the oldest person ever elected president.
Given the public’s growing frustration with politics, one thing is clear heading into the election, Blizzard said.
“This will be the most negative, aggressive, disgusting presidential campaign of all time,” Blizzard said. “It’ll be a race to the bottom.”