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New Nationwide Poll Finds Americans Have Deep Concerns on Health of American Democracy; Younger Generations Skeptical of Democracy, But Strong Cross-Party Support Remains for Core Democratic Principles

More than two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say democracy in the U.S. is on the wrong track, and 77 percent think democracy is in jeopardy. 

These are the results of a new national survey sponsored by The George Washington Presidential Library in publicity partnership with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. The survey measures Americans’ views on the future of democracy. The findings will be discussed at the upcoming symposium, The Great Experiment: Democracy from the Founding to the Future, scheduled for November 2 - 4 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Note to Editors: Media interested in attending the Democracy Symposium should contact Julie Almacy, Director of Public Affairs at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

“George Washington warned in his Farewell Address of threats to our nation’s fledgling democracy such as regionalism, partisanship, and foreign entanglements,” said Patrick Spero, Executive Director of the George Washington Presidential Library. “Our new poll finds that America is deeply divided on many issues, but Americans, on the whole, are united across party lines when it comes to support for the core principles of our democracy. The challenge going forward is to do the hard work to repair what is fraying the nation and understanding that America’s history plays a critical role in protecting our democracy for the next 250 years.”


A summary of the findings is available at Selected survey findings are as follows:

  • Just 19 percent of Americans are satisfied with current political discourse, and only 22 percent are happy with elected leaders’ level of cooperation and compromise.
  • Only 36 percent of Americans are confident in the ability of America’s political institutions to successfully address the challenges facing the country.
  • The younger the generation, the less confidence there is in democratic governance, with just 59% of Gen Z citing democracy as the preferred form of government, while Baby Boomers rank highest at 84 percent.
  • Only half of Americans (51 percent) trust the U.S. electoral process. Yet, 90 percent agree that the right to vote is a core democratic value that should be easily available to all legally qualified to vote in the U.S.
  • Across party lines, Americans agree that the peaceful handover of power from one U.S. president to the next is fundamental to American democracy (92 percent for Democrats and 83 percent for Republicans).
  • Ninety percent of Americans agree that the rule of law, where all citizens are subject to the same laws, and no one is “above the law,” is essential for American democracy to function effectively.
  • Eighty-eight percent agree dialogue and civility are necessary to improve our government’s work. 
  • Eighty-five percent of Americans say that despite our differences, we should all see ourselves as Americans first.

Mount Vernon President & CEO Doug Bradburn says, “While these poll findings show we have a lot of work to do as a nation to keep our republic strong, there is reason for optimism. Across generations, gender, ethnicity, and political beliefs, there is a desire for unity, working together through compromise, and shoring up our democratic foundations. As George Washington said in his Farewell Address, ‘There will always be designing men, thirsty for power, who will try to create distrust among the country’s different regions. Always be on guard against such efforts, for your Union ought to be considered the main prop of your liberty.’ We charge our leaders to work together and sincerely strive for a more perfect union.”

The polling results will be discussed at the symposium on November 4, 2023,th at 4:00 p.m. ET during a panel discussion with Larry Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics Founder and Director; John Avlon, CNN Anchor and Senior Political Analyst; and Patrick Spero, Executive Director of the George Washington Presidential Library.

The survey was conducted from September 15 – 21, 2023, by Project Home Fire with InnovateMR to gather responses from 1020 adults across the United States. The sample is representative of the broader population, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll used quotas based on U.S. Census Bureau data and poll averages of political party and political ideology to ensure respondents accurately reflect the country’s diverse makeup.

This symposium marks the tenth anniversary of the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon. It includes many of the nation’s most respected historians, authors, journalists, former military leaders, judges, business leaders, and philanthropists for an important examination of America’s new challenges in protecting its democratic government. The full roster of speakers is available here.

The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon hosts forums on early American history and civic engagement, manages a prominent research fellowship program, houses an extensive collection of manuscripts, maps, and books, organizes expansive digital offerings, and annually hosts thousands of people at public events and leadership programs. 


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