ABA survey: Most think U.S. democracy is weaker today

Democracy in the United States is weaker today than it was five years ago and most people blame misinformation, disinformation and the political parties according to a new survey released by the American Bar Association.

Here are some results:

• Democracy

A large majority — 74% — said U.S. democracy is weaker today than it was five years ago. Only 13% said it is stronger.

Among those who said our democracy is weaker, nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the primary cause is misinformation and disinformation. Nearly as many (29%) blamed the political parties. Less than 10% blamed social media or lack of civility.

The survey also asked who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding our democracy. More than a third (37%) said it is mainly the responsibility of the general public — yet half of all respondents (exactly 50%) said the general public is not very informed about how democracy works.

• Elections

With the presidential election approaching, exactly half of all respondents (50%) said free and fair elections are the most important part of a democratic government, and many expressed strong opinions about how elections should be conducted.

More than half (55%) said they are concerned about the integrity of the November general election. Among those respondents, the biggest concern, expressed by roughly a third (36%), was election subversion — meddling with the vote counting process. Roughly a quarter (23%) said their biggest concern was people voting more than once or ineligible people voting, and 1 in 10 (10%) said their biggest worry is the potential for violence.

Strong majorities expressed support for: requiring voter IDs (80%), allowing convicted felons to vote after serving their sentence (74%), early voting (73%) and absentee voting (71%).

• Civic knowledge

The survey also asked 13 multiple-choice questions from the U.S. citizenship test to explore how well Americans understand their government. Most respondents understood the concepts of checks and balances, separation of powers and rule of law.

And while a majority (58%) knew that John Roberts is the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 20% thought it was Clarence Thomas.

Many also misunderstood how the law applies to citizens and noncitizens. For example, 21% incorrectly thought that obeying the law is a responsibility only of U.S. citizens, 20% incorrectly believed that only citizens must pay income taxes, and 23% incorrectly thought that freedom of speech is only for citizens.

Subscribe to the Legal News!
Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more
Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year
Three-County & Full Pass also available