ABA Survey: Most Think That U.S. Democracy is Weaker Than it was Five Years Ago

According to responses to the 2024 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, 74% of individuals surveyed said that U.S. democracy is weaker than it was five years ago. Most blamed misinformation, disinformation, and political parties for contributing to this result. The survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The responses are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,000 respondents from March 4-9. Here is an overview of some of the results as reported by the ABA on their website: followed by a link to the full text of the survey.

Democracy “A large majority — 74% — said U.S. democracy is weaker today than it was five years ago. Only 13% said it is stronger. Among those who said our democracy is weaker, nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the primary cause is misinformation and disinformation. Nearly as many (29%) blamed the political parties. Less than 10% blamed social media or lack of civility. The survey also asked who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding our democracy. More than a third (37%) said it is mainly the responsibility of the general public — yet half of all respondents (exactly 50%) said the general public is not very informed about how democracy works.
With the presidential election approaching, exactly half of all respondents (50%) said free and fair elections are the most important part of a democratic government, and many expressed strong opinions about how elections should be conducted. More than half (55%) said they are concerned about the integrity of the November general election. Among those respondents, the biggest concern, expressed by roughly a third (36%), was election subversion — meddling with the vote counting process. Roughly a quarter (23%) said their biggest concern was people voting more than once or ineligible people voting, and 1 in 10 (10%) said their biggest worry is the potential for violence. Strong majorities expressed support for four election policies: requiring voter IDs (80%), allowing convicted felons to vote after serving their sentences (74%), early voting (73%) and absentee voting (71%).
Civic knowledge The survey also asked 13 multiple-choice questions from the U.S. citizenship test to explore how well Americans understand their government. Most respondents understood the concepts of checks and balances, separation of powers and rule of law .And while a majority (58%) knew that John Roberts is the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 20% thought it was Clarence Thomas. Many also misunderstood how the law applies to citizens and noncitizens. For example, 21% incorrectly thought that obeying the law is a responsibility only of U.S. citizens, 20% incorrectly believed that only citizens must pay income taxes, and 23% incorrectly thought that freedom of speech is only for citizens. “To see the full text of the Survey click here.

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