Is it possible that the American people have internalized all the abuse that Donald Trump has been hurling at his opponents during his campaign appearances? Because at a time when the leading presidential candidate for one of the major U.S. political parties regularly refers to people – including voters – as stupid, and labels his many detractors “losers,” a new Pew Research poll suggests that an increasing number of Americans seem to believe it about themselves and their fellow citizens.
In a survey released today based on more than 6,000 interviews conducted between August and early October, researchers found that Americans of almost all political persuasions believe that they lose more political battles than they win. It also found that Americans’ confidence in the public’s ability to make good decisions about politics has plummeted in the past several years.
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The poll report, Beyond Distrust: How Americans View Their Government, found widespread discontent with the federal government, politicians in general, and the state of politics in the country. Fewer than one in five Americans (19 percent) believes they can trust the government at least “most of the time” and nearly three in four (74 percent) says that elected officials put their own interests over those of their constituents or the country’s.
Another interesting finding is that people on both sides of the Democratic-Republican divide believe that their “side” loses more political battles than they win. All told, 64 percent of respondents said they perceive their side as typically losing, while only 25 percent believe they usually win.
The despondency was more profound among Republicans. Among members of the GOP who consider themselves conservative, 81 percent said they usually lose, while 79 percent of people identifying as Republicans or who said they lean Republican felt the same. Moderate or liberal Republicans were only slightly happier, with 75 percent saying they lose most fights.
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Among Democrats who identify as conservative or moderate 58 percent say they lose most of the time; 52 percent of those identifying as Democrats or saying they lean Democratic felt the same way.
Self-Identified liberals were the only group in which less than half of respondents said they feel like they are losing most of the time – only 44 percent gave that answer. They were also the only group in which those who feel their side usually wins came out on top: 46 percent said they feel as though their side wins more often than it loses.
The Pew researchers also asked respondents how much “trust and confidence” they have in the “political wisdom of the American people.” The results weren’t pretty, and show a dramatic decline in recent years among those who have a “very great deal” or a “good deal” of trust and confidence in their fellow citizens’ political decision making.
As recently as 2007, solid majorities of Republicans (61 percent) and Democrats (57 percent) reported that they had either a very great deal or a good deal of trust in the American public’s political wisdom. In this most recent survey, that fell to 37 percent among Republicans and 36 percent among Democrats. Independents, perhaps unsurprisingly, have long had a lower opinion of their fellow votes than members of the two major parties, but even in 2007, 50 percent of them expressed confidence in the electorate’s judgment. That number has fallen by more than half, to 23 percent.
So to conclude, the current state of the American electorate is that most of us, apparently, think we’re a bunch of stupid losers.