by Park MacDougald
Friday, 22
July 2022
Analysis
07:15

Political apathy reigns supreme among Americans

Polls paint a dismal picture of the state of US politics
by Park MacDougald
This is a wake-up call, Joe (Credit: Saul Loeb/ Getty Images)

Americans are frustrated with nearly everyone and everything in national politics, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

Joe Biden’s job approval rating, which has been steadily sinking throughout the year, hit a new low of 31%, worse even than Trump’s 38% approval at a similar time in his presidency. On every individual issue save for the coronavirus, Biden is underwater, including on the single most important issue to voters, the economy, where the president’s approval sits at a paltry 28%. Seventy-one percent of Americans, and 54% of Democrats, say they do not want to see Biden run again in 2024.

One of the stories of 2022 has been the ongoing realignment of the political parties, with Democrats becoming whiter and more affluent and Republicans becoming more Hispanic and working class. With white voters, Biden’s approval rating is 18 points higher among those with a college degree than those without (41% vs. 23%), and his approval among Hispanics is a truly abysmal 19% — worse even than among white men (22%), traditionally the most conservative group in the country.

That might sound like good news for Republicans, but the discontent is general. Approval of Congressional Republicans sits at 23%, and the numbers for Congressional Democrats — 30% approve vs. 63% disapprove — are not much better. Approval for the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade in June, sits at 39% among registered voters, the lowest number ever recorded by Quinnipiac. The narrow Republican lead on which party Americans say want to control Congress has evaporated since June, with Democrats now showing a slight edge in the House and the parties deadlocked in the Senate. And Trump, while slightly more popular than Biden, remains widely disliked. By a 55-37 margin, Americans said they had an “unfavourable” impression of the former president, compared to 58-35 for Biden, and 64% said they do not want Trump to run again.

All told, the poll paints a fairly dismal picture of the state of US politics. Americans do not like or trust the president, the former president, the vice-president, Congress, the Supreme Court, or either major political party. They are pessimistic about inflation and the economy, and nearly half, 47%, say they are personally worried about being the victim of a mass shooting.

That said, the most likely scenario for 2024 remains that Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president and Trump will be the Republican (69% of Republicans want him to run again). In that event, we’ll be treated to two despised, doddering old men competing to govern an increasingly fractious and mistrustful country. It’s a good reminder that however bad things are now, they can always get a lot worse.

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Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
28 days ago

“With white voters, Biden’s approval rating is 18 points higher among those with a college degree than those without (41% vs. 23%), and his approval among Hispanics is a truly abysmal 19% — worse even than among white men (22%), traditionally the most conservative group in the country.”
This should tell us the value of a college degree. Figure that out and most of what is wrong in our country becomes clear.


Warren T
Warren T
28 days ago

What this says more than anything is that Americans simply want less government. But politicians force themselves into our lives at ever increasing levels, which helps leads to this polarity. Social media obsession is also a main culprit, as half of the population gets one story and the other half gets the opposite story. No wonder we can’t compromise on anything.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
28 days ago
Reply to  Warren T

Yes. P.J. O’Rourke says “The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop”

John Aronsson
John Aronsson
28 days ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

“Don’t vote, it only encourages them” has been a common place saying in the US for generations.

James Stangl
James Stangl
28 days ago

First, The Quinnipiac poll has in the past overrepresented Democrats, which if still true portends a bloodbath for them in November.

Second, as a US conservative, I wouldn’t say that Americans are “apathetic,”unless one is looking at the disengagement in the groups that the Dems really need: the 18-29 year olds and affluent white liberal women. Everyone else I know is ready for a change after the last two years of further “hope and change.”

Third: to the Liam Mahoneys, the “backwards” Midwest and South (and Mountain West) are places where normal folks live. And where an increasing number of us currently trapped in coastal blue bubbles look forward to moving to soon.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
27 days ago
Reply to  James Stangl

That would be your ‘normal’. Enjoy your escape to the echo chamber.

William Hickey
William Hickey
28 days ago

I think this is an astute non-partisan summation of the state of the nation right now. But given American dynamism, I do not see it remaining true for long.

“Apathy”? No, dissatisfaction is more like it.

The article should have been called “Americans Are Really Annoyed and Ready For A Change.”

Biden v Trump in 2024? Don’t bet on it.

What I mean is that the last time the country was so pessimistic EVERYBODY and his brother thought that the next presidential nominees were sure to be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Last edited 28 days ago by William Hickey
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
28 days ago
Reply to  William Hickey

I agree with this sentiment. Americans are tired of the neoliberal policies of the past 30 years. They want something else, ANYTHING else, and that’s been true for a while now. Americans elected a man in 2008 who campaigned on changing the system, then bailed out every corporation that asked. Romney, the chosen candidate of the old guard Republicans to pull attention away from the more radical tea partiers, led to miserable turnout from the base. By 2016, people were willing to vote for an odious, womanizing, buffoonish con-man on the one hand or a socialist on the other. The powers that be stopped the one but not the other. Now the problem the Democrats have is that their best argument is Trump himself, but the man can’t last forever, and a generic candidate without Trump’s numerous and varied personal faults would decisively defeat Biden or most Democrats. They have little recourse but to pray Trump runs or that some intervening event between now and 2024 changes the political landscape tremendously. Their political future looks particularly grim if Republicans can bite off significant chunks of the Hispanic vote and appeal to other growing minorities (Indians, Chinese refugees, etc.).

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
28 days ago

Good Lord, if this writer thinks polls, of all completely contrived things, accurately conveys political sentiment in this country, he really has no business at all writing about American politics.

Cleo Sauldog
Cleo Sauldog
25 days ago

This is the same poll that said Hillary would beat Trump in a landslide. They’ve lost any credibility they might have once had.

AC Harper
AC Harper
28 days ago

There’s an argument that politics is the art of compromise, and so details matter for both sides of any argument.
The USA seems to be moving in the direction of polarised attitudes. Details are ridden over roughshod because the ‘values of my gang’ are more important. And so ‘compromise’ or even forward movement is stalled.
I’ve no idea who will stand as candidate for the Presidency in a couple of years time. It’s too far away for any certainty. The Republicans have to make a choice about Trump or some other contender. The Democrats don’t even have a choice – Biden is too obviously frail, Hillary Clinton does not present well, Obama is technically disbarred from standing, all the others are no hopers.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
28 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Bernie Sanders with AOC or Liz Warren: go Left young man! At least they will appeal to working class America: oh, I forgot. The only work remaining in the US these days is done by IT and the Arms Industry. (I’m ignoring oil and coal!)

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The Victim class, certainly not the working class, unless you mean the people who do their laundry and lawns.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
28 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Polarised attitudes – indeed. I blame the Internet.

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
28 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“Seems”

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
25 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Perhaps we are moving to once again become a Federal Republic with the States becoming more dominant. If we do, barring a move for separation, we can just choose which poison we prefer, Freedom or Oppression. We will, once again, vote with our feet.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
27 days ago

Unlike the UK electorate, the Americans seem to have noticed that they are being used and abused by career politicians. They seem to want an inspirational leader rather than the self serving bunch who, with the help of an unspeakable media, rule the roost in both US and UK. Although I am a Brit, I was inspired by Trump’s ability to move people both for and against and I was sure he must be doing something right to break down the public political lethargy.
My faith in humanity was increased dramatically by his determination to fulfil his promises after his election if at all possible.
The public need to be assured that our societies have not fallen beyond recall and that they, not politicians, will have to shoulder the burden.
NO? Have we really become so debilitated and emasculated that the wartime spirit is simply an historical footnote?

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
28 days ago

In the US we have a shared monopoly of political power; really just the starboard watch and the port watch of the same ship.
Between them the two Partys literally control the levers and the engine of government. They make the rules of debate, decide what gets debated (and what doesn’t!), who controls the important commitees, who sits where. They also control the rules of elections.
The politicians work in lock-step and pretend to compete. Needless to say, there’s no room for outsiders.
All the voters blame the “other watch” for everything from library books to the weather. And the ship, already aground, just drives further up onto the rocks with every little puff of wind, every change of tide.
Madness, madness.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
28 days ago

This is a strange piece. It extrapolates a lot from one poll when it could have worked out of collection of polls–there are a lot of polls–or could have worked off of the poll average posted at RealClearPolitics.com.
Most polls feature results on the “generic congressional ballot,” approval of Biden, and on the approval of Congress.
Approval of Congress is always low, because every one is always frustrated with Congress … but not so frustrated with their representative. That’s why Nancy Pelosi’s approval rate can be (and is) far lower than that of Donald Trump (!), but she manages to get re-elected effortlessly.
Meanwhile, the “generic” polls usually lean heavily in favor of the Democrats. Having watched these things for decades, I would suggest that “plus 6” in favor of the Democrats really means that the vote for the House of Representatives is a coin flip. The Republicans have been running steadily about +2 in the RealClearPolitics.com average. That is a big deal. Meanwhile, polling averages put the Republicans at 233 representatives with another 33 seats up in air. The Republicans could very well end up with 240 seats to the Democrats 195. That would be a big deal.
The vote in the Senate looks closer. The Republicans have more seats to defend, but the polling seat-by-seat suggests that they are more, rather than less, likely to win agenda-setting control in the Senate. That is a big deal.
This election might prove to be almost as transformative as elections in the 1850’s or in 1932. In the 1850’s, the Whig party imploded. There was much resorting, and, in 1860 a new party (the Republican Party) formed to challenge the Democrats.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
28 days ago

Oh dear…
Thanks for the interesting read as always, Park.

Phil Zeni
Phil Zeni
28 days ago

P.J. O’Rourke said “The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop”

The brilliant, caustic Lewis Lapham called D.C. “Versailles on the Potomac”; too bad his brilliant book “A Wish for Kings: Democracy at Bay” is out of print.

James H Johnson
James H Johnson
28 days ago

No.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
28 days ago

The re-election rate is never below 90%

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
26 days ago

From the early 60s on, American Institutions/Civics, was barely taught in US schools. Now there is a significant degree of constitutional illiteracy among the population, which the Founding Fathers warned could mean the end of the American experiment. Just recall the very recent hysterical outcry when the Supreme Court made so bold as to remind us that the Judicial Branch does not make law. And the January 6 gang finding someone “guilty” is patently unconstitutional, as lawmakers are not meant to judge. (Nor is any American citizen meant to be judged without a trial) How many of us can wistfully recall the days, not so long gone, when we thought that Idiocracy was a dystopian future fantasy?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
28 days ago

What a pity the American Civil War didn’t end in partition! We would have a progressive NE and probably West with a backward, reactionary South and Midwest:
3 or 4 countries with 50-150m population in each. Sometimes a victory turns out to be a defeat in the very long run.
The situation is perhaps reflected too in the former USSR though it’s break up as we can see only too clearly, is a disaster now (but for very different reasons).
Maybe a break up of the USA is it’s only hope? Compromise is clearly not an option between tbe waring factions there. We can call the new countrues:
Greater New England
Greater California
Cowboy Country and
The Southern Stares?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Not imopssible, but such a sad outcome. Free run for the Chinese then too.

Warren T
Warren T
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Apparently, people love “Progressivism” so much that they are leaving the big blue paradises in droves. Those “backward” places you refer to are where the sane people tend to settle, where common sense and the rule of law still prevails to some extent. I fully realize that the rule of law stands in the way of a complete progressive takeover, however, so it must be denigrated by the mob.

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
28 days ago
Reply to  Warren T

And where abortion is illegal, contraception looking “iffy” gay marriage “iffy” and guns galore.

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Elitists drivel. Come visit Dalhart, TX for a few days, then talk.

Jo Nielson
Jo Nielson
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

As an American, I don’t really see how we can keep going as we are. Over the past few years, I’ve been warming up to the idea of a ‘breakup’. There is an argument to be made that we are just too big and something needs to give. I have no interest in living in a woke paradise. I just don’t know how you reconcile classical liberalism with woke. Culture still matters to a lot of people and like you pointed out, CA is different than the South which is different than NE. We have hundreds of millions of people here. It’s not like borders are permanently fixed. Do I want it to happen- no. Is it a realistic option- it’s been looking like it more and more. It would be one thing if our government was in the business of problem solving, but it’s not. It’s about having issues to run in for the next election and scoring points on cable news. I love my country, but I love freedom more. My government behaves like an abuser at this point. Why should anyone settle for that? I’d love to see better governance, but how do you rationally talk to the screamers who insist that you can’t ask questions about their ideas? My generation grew up on question authority, so I call BS on this not being able to ask questions thing. (I have the right to ask questions!) If you can’t have a conversation without it going downhill in the first minute, then you can’t practically do the work of problem solving and engage in finding compromises that everyone can live with. The Constitution isn’t a suicide pact. I’d love a happy ending, but I’m not convinced that’s a realistic or the best Outcome at this point. It makes me sad to say that, but I’ve got to be realistic and sober about what I see. We’ve seen this play out in other societies throughout history and we know if people can’t step away from the brink, then things go south real fast. A lot of people in my society are currently flirting with the brink. It’s not going to take much more for society to get even more crazy, especially with the food shortages coming and food prices continuing to rise. That’s not good for any of us. Instead of calming people down, our government keeps heating people up. That’s not going to turn out well. That’s just reality.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

A complete separation into separate countries is possible, but I think it more likely that there is, instead, a reversal of the trend towards government centralization. A polarized and paralyzed federal government becomes increasingly incompetent, leading states to take matters into their own hands, which in turn leads to greater differences between the states and even more difficulty finding compromise at a national level. Whichever side is in control of the national government might try to push back, but never with broad enough popular support to be successful. The end result is a de facto transfer of power from federal to state level, combined with a matching public opinion shift of loyalty and patriotism. Cautious people in Washington are already making decisions based on avoiding violence and direct state/federal conflict (see Biden’s position on making abortions available on federal lands). They see which way the wind is blowing and it’s bound to get worse. Eventually the federal government cedes much of the controversy to the individual states, who will still hate each other, but it won’t consume the country in quite the same way. The way I see it, the US ends up like the EU, but comes from the other direction to get there. Then again, Brexit still happened, so maybe I’m being too optimistic.

Last edited 28 days ago by Steve Jolly
Alan B
Alan B
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

But what would our brahmins be without the narcissism of small differences? Austin is to Washington DC as Kyiv is to Moscow.

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I have lived here for 17 years and have no interest in applying for citizenship but I would in a heartbeat if your comment became reality.

R. Michael Martens Mpls. MN
R. Michael Martens Mpls. MN
28 days ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Its Lesser NE, Lesser CA, The South and Flyover Country

Lesser NE and Lesser CA will be paying $15/gal for gas and 40 cents a KW for electricity and the rest of the country paying $3/gal.and 15 cents a KW

People wanting to leave NE and CA will have to attend schools similar to Indian Boarding Schools to eliminate their wokeness and progressivism before they are allowed to move to the USA. To rephrase a Union General “Kill the progressive, Save the Man”