Following the 2016 election, the Congressional Institute commissioned a study of middle-class Americans and their dissatisfaction with government. This was a follow-up to our study in 2016 about people’s attitudes towards Congress.
Middle-class Americans remain concerned about the future of the country, the study finds. Less than 40 percent of middle-income voters think the country is going in the “right direction”, and a full 44 percent thinks the country is on the “wrong track”. Similarly, almost 60 percent think Washington does not hear them; only 29 percent think elected officials pay attention. This is, however, a change from last year, when only 19 percent thought their voices are heard in Washington.
Voters still feel they are not heard, but even worse, they also believe that lawmakers do not pay attention even when their voices are heard. They often do not feel their government values their opinion and sees them as having little worth. This question from the survey’s toplines explains a major reason for public discontentment with government:
This presents an opportunity for Members of Congress, as citizens think Members have the “largest role” in ensuring the people are heard – an assumption the Framers of the Constitution made when explaining their work in The Federalist Papers. Forty-three percent said Members had the “largest role”, compared with 27 percent who say individual voters are primarily responsible and 11 percent who said the President is. What metric do constituents have to measure whether the new Congress is listening to them? The qualitative and quantitative parts of the study say that Members and the President can prove they have heard the people by implementing the policies the people supported during the campaign—and the voters have high expectations for significant change.
As one focus group participant said, “Something has to change. The middle class is shrinking and this is our last chance.”
For the full report, please click here.
For a summary of the report, please click here.
For the survey toplines, please click here.