A shocking finding from a recent Gallup survey explains a great deal of the turmoil rolling through the Presidential contest.
A staggering 75 percent of Americans say that “corruption is widespread throughout the government.” The number saying the government is corrupt is up dramatically, almost 10 points, since Barack Obama took office.
This isn’t just the cynicism of technophile citizens in the developed world. The number of Americans who view the government as corrupt is almost twice the number of Germans who believe their government is dirty. Residents of most developed European countries, in fact, have much more favorable views about corruption in their governments.
Unsurprisingly, Americans are also upset about this.
Last week, Breitbart News reported on a recent CNN poll that found a strong majority of Americans dissatisfied and angry with the way the country is being governed. As Caroline May wrote:
As CNN reports, the new survey found that 75 percent of Americans say they are “dissatisfied” with the way the nation is being governed and 69 percent are “somewhat angry” about the way things are going in the country.
While majorities on both sides of the political aisle express those sentiments, according to the CNN poll, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to be dissatisfied and angry with the country’s governance with 90 percent of Republicans expressing dissatisfaction and 82 percent saying they are angry.
May pointed out that this sentiment was most pronounced among supporters of Donald Trump. Almost universally, 97 percent, Trump supporters said they were dissatisfied with government in American and 91 percent reported they were “angry” about it.
Many pundits have cast doubt on whether Trump’s supporters would show up at the polls when primary voting begins. The CNN finding suggests that turnout won’t be an issue for the Trump campaign. Anger is one of the most effective turnout mechanisms.
Of course, anger is only one part of that equation. Voting turnout has fallen the last two elections. The key variable is whether voters believe there is an election choice that will give vent to their anger.
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO Gallup, noted this on Wednesday:
The last presidential election had an estimated 5 million fewer voters than turned out in 2008, and the 2014 midterm elections saw the lowest turnout in 72 years (36.3%). At alarming levels, citizens — when invited to participate directly in their own democracy — are taking a pass and staying home. Or taking their frustrations to the streets.
The perception that there’s widespread corruption in the national government could be a symptom of citizen disengagement and anger. Or it could be a cause — we don’t know. But it’s very possible this is a big, dark cloud that hangs over this country’s progress. And it might be fueling the rise of an unlikely, non-traditional leading Republican candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump.
The only other Republican candidate to base any part of their campaign on a direct attack on Washington is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It isn’t surprising, then, that his numbers have been steadily climbing in recent weeks. The candidates most tied to the political governing class, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie have failed to garner much support nationally.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has played both sides of the equation to mixed results.
Clifton also notes:
This sense of corruption probably contributes to much of the extreme anxiety and unrest we see today — including protests, lower voter turnout and increased interest in guns.
Every election is usually described as the “most crucial” in our nation’s political history. A little hyperbole to get people engaged is understandable. This election, however, may live up to the traditional billing.
The economic “recovery” is the weakest in modern times. A new crisis or brush-fire seems to break out somewhere in the world every week. Whatever one’s views on immigration, there is a real sense that the country has absolutely no control over who migrates here. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Americans view the government as “corrupt.”
2016 may actually be America’s existential election.