Poll finds voter disconnect, helplessness over election
Washington — Republicans and Democrats feel a massive disconnect with their political parties and helpless about the presidential election.
That’s according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which helps explain the rise of outsider candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and suggests challenges ahead for fractured parties that must come together to win this fall.
“It feels like the state of politics is generally broken,” said Joe Denother, a 37-year-old Oregon voter who typically favors Republicans.
The divisive primary season has fueled an overall sense of pessimism about the political process that underscores a widening chasm between political parties and the voters they claim to represent. Just 12 percent of Republicans think the GOP is very responsive to ordinary voters, while 25 percent of Democrats say the same of their party.
The survey exposes an extraordinary crisis of confidence in most major political institutions as both parties intensify efforts to connect with voters heading into the general election.
In general, only 15 percent of Americans report a great deal of confidence in the Democratic Party compared with just 8 percent who say the same of the GOP. That’s as only 4 percent say they have a great deal of confidence in Congress, 15 percent in the executive branch and 24 percent in the Supreme Court.
The findings come as Trump assumes the mantle of GOP leader, having won the number of delegates necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. Trump got there with an aggressive anti-establishment message, railing against his party leaders for months.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton remains locked in a divisive primary battle with Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist who has inspired a large and loyal following. The Vermont senator has echoed Trump’s charges of an unfair political system that’s stacked against him and ordinary Americans, a criticism that resonates with many voters.
The survey also found evidence of overwhelming interest in the presidential contest, although less than a quarter of Americans say they’re excited about it.
Worse, 55 percent of Americans, including 60 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats, say they feel helpless about the 2016 election. And two-thirds of Americans under 30 report feeling helpless.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,060 adults was conducted May 12-15 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.