As Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s 241st birthday, they believe the overall tone and level of civility between Democrats and Republicans in the nation’s capital has gotten worse since the election of President Trump last year, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. The same survey also shows distrust of many of the nation’s fundamental democratic institutions amongst the public.
Seven in 10 Americans say the level of civility in Washington has gotten worse since President Trump was elected, while just 6 percent say the overall tone has improved. Twenty percent say it’s stayed the same. For comparison, 35 percent in 2009 said civility in the country had declined in the U.S. following President Obama’s election, per a Gallup survey. Eight years ago, 21 percent of Americans in that poll thought civility and the tone of discourse in the country had improved.
There’s also little difference in Americans’ views on civility and the level of discourse across partisan lines. Just over eight in 10 Democrats say it’s gotten worse since Trump was elected, while 70 percent of independents say the same thing. Sixty-five percent of Republicans say civility between the GOP and Democrats has declined since November, with just 12 percent saying it has improved.
“Searching for consensus in Washington?” asks Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “There’s strong consensus across the board that civility in Washington is on the outs.”
And few people have a high level of trust in many of the institutions that are the backbone of American democracy. Only intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the CIA and the FBI engender much goodwill, with 60 percent saying they have some degree of trust in them.
Even as Trump has, at times, attacked the CIA along with the FBI investigation into his campaign aides’ possible collusion with Russia during the election, 40 percent of Republicans say they have a good amount of trust in the intelligence community, with 19 percent saying they have a great deal of trust in them. Twenty-five percent of Republicans say they don’t have very much trust in the intelligence community, with 11 percent saying they don’t have any trust in them. Among Trump supporters, just over half still have trust in those groups, while 30 percent say they don’t have very much trust in them, with 14 percent having no trust.