Poll: Most Pa. voters don’t believe American democracy is working for all | Friday Morning Coffee

April 2, 2021 7:15 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which involved an unsettlingly large number of Pennsylvanians, and the stubborn endurance of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, revealed deep fissures in the way that Americans think and feel about the political processs.

But how deep do those fissures run? And can they be repaired? Recent polling by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., attempted to answer both questions, and delivered some decidedly mixed results.

First, pollsters inquired about baseline democratic principles, asking respondents whether they thought “leaders sometimes have to break the rules to get things done; whether citizens deserve an equal say in how government runs; whether there should be barriers to voting; whether citizens should be allowed to say whatever they think even if their views are unpopular; and whether it’s important to protect the rights of defendants in civil and criminal trials.”

Then, to find out if they believed American democracy was working in practice, pollsters asked respondents whether they thought “the decisions of federal judges are fair and impartial; if the actions of the U.S. House and Senate represent the collective will of the American people; if elections in the United States are free and fair; if the federal government is corrupt; and if the federal government’s operations are open and transparent.”

First up, the good news: Irrespective of their party loyalties, Pennsylvanians “seem” committed to democratic principles, F&M pollsters wrote in a memo detailing their findings. Graded on a 10-point scale, where 10 represents strong agreement and 5 represented agreeing “somewhat” with a list of five democratic principles, the average score was 7.1, pollsters wrote.

Now the bad news: Despite that, most voters in the state do not believe that American democracy is working as well as it should in practice. The average score there was 2.4, “which means that respondents disagreed with statements describing a well-functioning democracy,” pollsters wrote.

Here’s how that broke down by party: Both Republicans and Democrats supported democratic principles (with scores of 6.6 and 7.5, respectively) and both were likely to disagree that American democracy is working well (1.8 and 3.1, respectively). But, GOP respondents were “significantly less likely to think American democracy is working well,” pollsters wrote.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: President Joe Biden speaks during the the 59th inaugural ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

Pollsters said they found no significant differences between traditional Republicans and Trump Republicans “in terms of overall support for democratic principles.” But they did see noticeable differences in their support for specific principles, they said.

“For instance, one in seven (14 percent) Trump Republicans ‘strongly agreed’ that a leader may sometimes have to break the rules to get things done compared to only one in 25 (4 percent) traditional Republicans who believe that strongly,” they wrote. “And while about half (49 percent) of traditional Republicans agree that there should be no barriers to voting in the United States, only one in four (29 percent) Trump Republicans agree. Indeed, more than half (55 percent) of Trump Republicans ‘strongly disagreed’ with that statement, compared to only a third (34 percent) of traditional Republicans.”

The differences among Democrats, pollsters found, were not as profound.

“The differences among Democrats are not as stark. Self-described centrist Democrats (45 percent) outnumber progressive Democrats (33 percent) in the state, but the differences in these groups’ ratings of democratic ideals and democracy-in-practice do not differ,” they wrote.

The bottom line? It might be time for a change in how the nation does things, they wrote.

“The evidence in our survey suggests that it’s not democracy, per se, that the public rejects. Instead, both Democrats and Republicans are dissatisfied with the way democracy currently functions in the United States,” F&M pollsters wrote. “Perhaps the democratic malaise we are experiencing is actually discontent with our representative form of democracy.

“The basic elements of that system – just two parties, … countless checks and balances – have been in place for close to 200 years,” they continued. “Perhaps it’s time to introduce newer forms of democratic practices, for instance, changes to how elections are conducted and new forums for deliberation by members of the public, to reinvigorate our politics and help citizens realize a system that functions as they believe it should.”

Some fodder for debate for your Friday.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
President Joe Biden’s bet on Amtrak in his $2 trillion infrastructure package has excited Pa. officials, but much could derail the effortStephen Caruso reports.

Biden has paired a ‘down payment’ on the nation’s climate crisis with rebuilding infrastructure, National Correspondent Jacob Fischler reports.

And in a new column, I ask whether Biden is the most transformative president we’ve seen in years. Current signs point to ‘yes.’

During an appearance before a U.S. House committee on Thursday, voting rights advocates aired their worries about an onslaught of new state election lawsCapital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

Philly Mayor Jim Kenney punted Thursday when he was asked to provide and update on his anti-violence plan as homicides surge in the state’s largest city, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, an expert answers your most pressing questions on when kids can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

En la Estrella-Capital: Ahora contratando: la Comisión de redistribución de distritos busca candidatos para presidente para supervisar la elaboración de mapas del 2021. A partir de la próxima semana, los niños de las escuelas de Pa. pueden estar a 3 pies, no a 6 pies de distancia, según las pautas actualizadas del distanciamiento social.

(Getty Images via The Beacon)

Philadelphia is trying to improve its vaccination efforts by targeting hard-hit neighborhoods. Residents say it’s about time, the Inquirer reports.
A system glitch prompted the Allegheny County Health Department to re-send some vaccine appointment emails, the Post-Gazette reports.
Pa. health officials say the state has to convince rural Pennsylvanians that their ‘freedom’ depends on the vaccine, PennLive reports.
The Morning Call talks to PPL’s CEO about the company’s new outlook and its commitment to the Lehigh Valley.
Luzerne County Community College says it won’t require COVID-19 vaccinations for students attending in-person classes, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
York County’s prison warden is headed for a new job, the York Daily Record reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Picture Patch (@patchpixles)

The late Walter Wallace Jr’.s  family is suing the two Philadelphia police officers who killed him, WHYY-FM reports.
Pennsylvania’s first green hydrogen plant is being planned for Lancaster County, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.
Erie is reopening its city parks and playgrounds, GoErie reports (paywall).
State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, 
tells PoliticsPA that he’s launching an exploratory bid for U.S. Senate in 2022.
Roll Call 
explains how Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan is seen as aiding the ‘initial link’ in the farm supply chain.What Goes On.
The Capitol offices and most government offices are closed for Good Friday. A prayer group meets on the Capitol steps at 4 p.m.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 heads to Luzerne County for a 12:30 p.m. stop at an intermediate unit in Kingston, Pa. to talk about educators getting vaccinated.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Helping you plan ahead, GOP Dauphin County Commissioners Mike Pries and Jeff Haste hold a 5:30 p.m. March Madness reception at Champion’s Sports Bar & Grill in scenic Highspire, Pa. Tickets are $50, but there’s the usual tiered admission, running $1,000 to $2,000.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Kaytee Isley, in the office of state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who celebrates today. Advance good wishes go out to Wesley Robinson, in the office of Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, and to Johnna Pro, in the W.Pa office of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, both of whom celebrate on Saturday. Congratulations all around, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s something a little trance-y and a little dance-y to get the weekend rolling. From WhoMadeWho, it’s ‘Neighbourhood.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Thursday was opening day for Major League Baseball. And Baltimore faces Boston today in a delayed season opener. Let’s go, Birds.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.