Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 669
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has published a fascinating look at American political attitudes spanning the years 1987 - 2007. It shows some dramatic changes over time, and, I'm happy to say, mostly away from the political right.
- In 2002, the country was equally divided along partisan lines: 43% identified with the Republican Party or leaned to the GOP, while an identical proportion said they were Democrats. Today, half of the public (50%) either identifies as a Democrat or says they lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 35% who align with the GOP.
- The study finds a pattern of rising support since the mid-1990s for government action to help disadvantaged Americans. More Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, and that it should help more needy people even if it means going deeper into debt.
- Americans are less disposed than five years ago to favor a strong military as the best way to ensure peace. In 2002, less than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, more than six-in-ten agreed with the statement, "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Today, about half express similar confidence in military power.
- In 1995, 58% said they favored affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better jobs. That percentage has risen steadily since, and stands at 70% in the current poll. Gains in support for affirmative action have occurred to almost the same extent among Republicans (+8), Democrats (+10), and Independents (+14).
- Interpersonal racial attitudes continue to moderate. More than eight-in-ten (83%) agree that "it's all right for blacks and whites to date," up six percentage points since 2003 and 13 points from a Pew survey conducted 10 years ago.
- The Democratic Party's overall standing with the public is no better than it was when President Bush was first inaugurated in 2001. Instead, it is the Republican Party that has rapidly lost public support, particularly among political independents. Faced with an unpopular president who is waging an increasingly unpopular war, the proportion of Americans who hold a favorable view of the Republican Party stands at 41%, down 15 points since January 2001. But during that same period, the proportion expressing a positive view of Democrats has declined by six points, to 54%.
- The public is losing confidence in itself. A dwindling majority (57%) say they have a good deal of confidence in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions. Similarly, the proportion who agrees that Americans "can always find a way to solve our problems" has dropped 16 points in the past five years.
- Americans feel increasingly estranged from their government. Barely a third (34%) agree with the statement, "most elected officials care what people like me think," nearly matching the 20-year low of 33% recorded in 1994 and a 10-point drop since 2002.
- Young people continue to hold a more favorable view of government than do other Americans. At the same time, young adults express the least interest in voting and other forms of political participation.
But it isn't all rainbows. A few points of worry:
And finally, one quite simply infuriating point:
WTF? Are twenty-somethings saying that government works best when they don't participate? I'm hoping folks will fill up the comment bin on this one, because it makes absolutely no sense to me.
The full report can be found here. Definately worth a read, no matter which side of the political fence you're on!