Washington is broken. These three words have been embedded in the minds of Americans for decades, and more recently by the right and left wing populist rhetoric of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
The campaign for president is on the forefront of Americans’ minds while their frustration with the lack of action in Washington continues to grow. Americans believe Washington’s broken system is the biggest problem facing our country, even outpacing the threat of terrorism or economic concerns. Americans want change in Washington, yet their general distaste for Congress leaves them looking to other avenues to tackle the country’s biggest problems. They see a role for state and local governments, businesses, non-profits, and individuals themselves in their vision for a new America. However, Americans still look to the federal government as the institution that should lead the effort in developing solutions.
While Americans are frustrated and fed up with inaction in Washington, pessimism is not overtaking a personal sense of optimism. Americans have a sense of confidence in their personal financial situation and see the economy growing, either through more people being back to work or saving more money than they did before the recession. Even President Obama enjoys a small positive approval rating of his job performance in an environment that is anti-incumbent and anti-Washington.
The election for president is up for grabs, although Democrat Hillary Clinton has some clear advantages over Republican Donald Trump. She leads him on every presidential leadership quality tested and leads him on the initial ballot. However, she fails to garner the important 50%+1 mark. Americans are as divided as the partisanship in Washington when it comes to whether they want a presidential candidate who will compromise or stick to their core values, splitting across party lines. They are also doubtful whether their chosen candidate can truly bring the change they want to see.
Americans’ overwhelming sense of exasperation toward Washington has seeped into numerous facets of their lives. It is a warning sign to both parties over the next few months – get something done or lose the election. Americans are engaged and ready to take on the problems of the country with the cast of their vote in November.