When it comes to politics, the public also is self-critical: Just 34% say they have “very great” or a “good” deal of trust and confidence in the political wisdom of the American people. Fully 63% have “not very much” confidence or “no confidence at all.”
These views have changed dramatically since 2007, when a majority (57%) had at least a good deal of trust and confidence in the American people’s political wisdom. The decline has come among both Democrats and Republicans: Just 37% of Democrats and Democratic leaners have at least a good deal of confidence in the public’s political wisdom, as do 36% of Republicans and Republican leaners, down from 57% and 61%, respectively, eight years ago.
However, even as the public readily acknowledges the shortcomings of Americans, a majority nonetheless see themselves as better able than politicians to solve the nation’s problems.
Most Americans (56%) acknowledge that the big issues facing the country lack clear solutions. Yet a comparable majority (55%) says that “ordinary Americans” could do a better job than elected officials of solving the country’s problems. Only about four-in-ten (39%) say elected officials could do no better than the politicians.
The belief that ordinary people are superior problem-solvers is particularly widespread among the minority of Americans (22%) who say they are angry with the federal government. Among those angry at government, 73% say ordinary Americans could do better than politicians. That compares with 53% of those who are frustrated, but not angry, with government and 40% of those who are basically content with the federal government.
From the November Pew survey:
The share of Republicans and Republican leaners saying they are angry with the government is not as high as in October 2013 (32% now, 38% then). Nonetheless, Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats (12%) to say they are angry with the government. And among politically engaged Republicans and Democrats – those who vote frequently and follow politics on a regular basis – the gap is nearly four-to-one (42% to 11%).
Among both Democrats and Republicans, large majorities say they can seldom, if ever, trust the federal government (89% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats). While trust in government among Republicans has varied widely depending on whether a Republican or Democrat is in the White House, Democrats’ views have shown far less change.
In Barack Obama’s six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they can trust the government always or most of the time – the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush’s presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% Bush, 29% Obama).
Overall, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that on the issues that matter to them, their side loses more often than it wins. Just 25% say their side comes out ahead more often.
This sense of “losing” is more widely shared among Republicans than Democrats – large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (75%) say their political side loses more often than it wins.
But while most Republicans feel like they lose more often than they win, most Democrats do not feel like “winners” either. Overall, 52% of Democrats say their side loses more often than it wins, while 40% say it usually wins. Liberal Democrats are divided over whether their side wins or loses more often (46% winning vs. 44% losing) – the only ideological group in which a majority does not think its side is losing.