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Poll: Two-thirds of Americans believe democracy is ‘under threat’

Voting tags at St. Augustine College are on display as Chicago voters hit the polls on April 2, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/TNS)
July 02, 2021

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, believe democracy is “under threat” in the United States, a PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist poll revealed Friday.

The survey found that 67 percent of Americans say democracy is “under threat” in the nation, with just 29 percent asserting that U.S. democracy is healthy and protected.  

“87% of Trump backers and 60% of Biden voters agree that our democracy is under threat,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist Poll. “But, they view the reasons for such risk through a very different lens. For Democrats, January 6th undoubtedly looms large while, for Republicans, it’s more likely about Trump and his claims of a rigged election.”

Despite Americans’ concerns relating to democracy, nearly half also believe the U.S. is heading in the right direction, marking a significant change since the January 6 Capitol demonstration when just 20 percent of Americans said the country was moving the right way compared to 75 percent who thought it was way off track.

Thoughts on the current state of the country are divided along party lines, with 87 percent of Democrats optimistic when it comes to the direction the United States is heading, compared to 44 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans.

When it comes to voting laws, 56 percent of Americans believe “making sure that everyone who wants to vote can do so,” whereas 41 percent say “making sure that no one votes who is not eligible” is the priority.  

There is a noticeable partisan split when it comes to beliefs on voting laws, with 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Independents prioritizing voting access, while 72 percent of GOP respondents support more secure voting.

Most Americans support requiring voter ID at the polls, including the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

Forty-one percent also believe the tone in Washington, D.C., has gotten worse since Biden took office, 21 percent say it’s improved and 35 percent believe it hasn’t changed at all.

The poll comes as lawmakers across the United States push for changes in voting laws following concerns surrounding the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election between then-President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. In Congress, the so-called “For the People Act” hoped to federalize election processes by removing states’ authority when it comes to regulating voter registration and would have forced states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, and no-fault absentee balloting, as well as ban state voter ID laws.

After passing the House without a single Republican vote, the bill failed in the Senate due to the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to move forward.