New GW Poll Shows Confidence in Government Institutions Remains Stagnant

Majority of Americans concerned that the country and the economy are on the wrong track

September 15, 2022

WASHINGTON (Sept. 14, 2022) – Voter confidence in United States government institutions remains largely unchanged, according to a new survey by the Society of Presidential Pollsters at the George Washington University. However, significant majorities feel the U.S. economy and the nation as a whole are going in the wrong direction. While nearly three-quarters of Americans believe in the importance of bipartisan policy-making, a majority also believe public institutions are becoming increasingly politicized.

Views on the performance of key government institutions shifted modestly compared to last year’s survey. Voters are evenly split on whether the presidency is working and three-fifths feel Congress is not working, figures that barely budged compared to the 2021 poll. 57% of voters said the Supreme Court is working, a 2-point decline from last year and an 8-point decline since 2020. Although a majority of voters believe the Department of Justice and the FBI are performing well, the Bureau suffered a 6-point drop in confidence, while the DOJ’s performance numbers fell 4%. A slim majority of voters claim federal law enforcement agencies have become politically weaponized. Around two-thirds of voters feel democracy is under assault.

"Across a broad range of questions in this survey -- from Constitutional values to the latest hot-button squabble -- the responses of American voters display a profound concern with the state of our politics and the functioning of our governmental institutions,” Christopher Arterton, professor emeritus of political management and founding dean of the GW Graduate School of Political Management, said.

A strong but declining share of American voters consider bipartisanship to be a crucial component of our democracy. 71% of voters believe it is critically important for both parties to agree on major policy changes, a 7-point slide from last year’s poll, and approximately three-quarters of voters believe the bipartisan system of governing is no longer working. While nearly 9 in 10 voters over the age of 65 view bipartisanship as indispensable, just under 6 in 10 of those between the ages of 18 and 34 feel the same way.

“Almost two thirds believe that both the Congress and the Presidency are becoming more politicized and a majority think the same of many executive branch agencies,” Arterton said. “Two-thirds say that party leaders serve their party's interest over the national interest, and almost three-quarters believe that politicians in Washington are not willing to compromise."

The survey also questioned voters about issues that will likely influence November’s midterm elections. 34% of voters, including 60% of Republicans, still falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. 65% of voters, including 49% of Democrats, think there were at least some minor vote counting problems in the 2020 election. 51% of surveyed voters called President Biden’s decision to cancel student loan debt an improper use of executive power. Half of voters say executive orders in general are being increasingly abused and 56% say our system needs more checks and balances. 52% of voters feel the Supreme Court was right to make abortion and same-sex marriage constitutional rights, a considerable decline from the 2020 survey, largely due to a precipitous drop in Republican support.

HarrisX, on behalf of the Society of Presidential Pollsters, conducted the online survey from September 8 – 9, 2022. 1,851 registered voters participated in the survey. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race or ethnicity, income, education, political party, and political ideology where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. The margin for error was +/- 2.3%.

The complete results from the survey can be found here. Professor Arterton and Society of Presidential Pollsters founder Mark Penn will discuss the survey results on Wednesday, September 14, at 12:30 PM. If you would like to attend the event at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, please RSVP to Danny Parra at [email protected]. The event will also be live streamed on the GSPM Facebook page.

The George Washington University established the Society of Presidential Pollsters in 2010. The Society acts as a membership organization for the select group of people who have served as public opinion advisors to the President of the United States. The Society aims to collect and preserve records of the polling conducted on behalf of the White House over the last eight decades.