Large majority of Americans critical of the state of democracy in the United States

New Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that majority feel people have a lot of influence in problem-solving nationally and locally when they get involved

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington, DC, July 20, 2021– Just over one in ten Americans feel the country’s democracy is healthy, while nearly 90% say it is facing challenges or in crisis according to a Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground survey.

Detailed Findings

1. Just 14% of Americans think the U.S. democracy is doing well, with half saying it is facing serious challenges and more than a third saying it is in crisis.

  • Most likely a result of the current presidential administration, Republicans are most negative while Democrats are most positive across political affiliations.
  • Adding to this, a plurality think it will get worse in the next few years (42%), including 63% of Republicans (compared to 20% of Democrats, 44% of Independents, and 46% of apolitical individuals).

2. Americans are split on if the design and structure of the government is fine as long as we elect the right people (47%) or if the design and structure of the government needs a significant change no matter who we elect to represent us (53%).

  • Select demographic groups are more likely to say it needs significant change, including: 18-34 year olds, unemployed Americans and apolitical individuals.
  • For those that believe it needs significant change, the two most commonly cited major reasons are:
    • So that our political system can become less divisive and more constructive (75%).
    • So that ordinary people can have more of a voice (71%).
  • Similarly, the two factors chosen most frequently as the single most important element to create a healthier democracy are that the government serves ordinary people, not the rich and powerful (16%) and that political leaders put aside destructive partisan divisiveness (15%).

3. Six in ten Americans feel that it is mostly the responsibility of the American public to help find solutions – not mostly the government’s responsibility, and a majority feel that when enough people get involved, they have a lot of influence over how the nation (58%) and communities (73%) address problems.

  • More than 70% of Americans are more likely to get involved in an issue in their local community if elected leaders worked closely with the community to address the issue (72% more likely to get involved) and if the process was convenient, efficient and easy to understand (72% more likely to get involved).
  • Around a quarter of Americans are less likely to get involved if the process involved watching a debate between opposing party public officials.
  • Around three quarters think their local government should implement well-organized opportunities for people to get together and discuss different ideas for addressing problems (65%) and councils of community members and elected officials, who make decisions together about local issues (62%).
    • There is little difference in support between Republicans and Democrats for these measures.

Please visit to read the full report and to read the full article.


These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between May 24-27, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 1,260 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 405 Democrats, 306 Republicans, 307 Independents, and 242 apolitical Americans.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel (see link for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2018 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,260, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-4.6 percentage points).

The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 6.4 percentage points for Republicans, plus or minus 6.4 percentage points for Independents, and plus or minus 7.2 percentage points for apolitical individuals.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, U.S.
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025
[email protected]

Kate Silverstein
Media Relations Specialist, U.S.
Public Affairs
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP


The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs