Americans Say Congress is Not Listening to Public

Democrats and Republicans don’t seem to agree on very many things, but according to a new political psychology survey, Americans in both groups say that Congress has been paying attention to the wrong people when casting their votes.

Survey respondents say that Congress members are not taking into enough account the opinions of the public, and instead are voting based on the preferences of campaign donors, wealthy Americans, and lobbyists.

The study was designed by researchers in the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford University and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in collaboration with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“These results illustrate striking agreement between Republicans and Democrats about how they want government leaders to make decisions and how they believe government has gone off the rails,” said Dr. Jon Krosnick, professor of communication, political science, and psychology at Stanford University and co-director of the study.

Most Americans, regardless of political party, want lawmakers to vote on an issue after listening to the preferences of the entire American public and those of their constituents. Very few say they want lawmakers to pay a lot of attention to elites, donors, political party leaders, or the president.

Americans agree that Congress has paid little attention to the president when making decisions, both under President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama —and they approve.

“We have known for some time that the public is not happy with Congress, and we wanted to explore why, going beyond generic explanations such as, ‘they are not getting anything done,'” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center.

“Large majorities in both parties report lawmakers should pay attention to the majority of Americans but believe lawmakers actually pay attention to donors and elites. Rare in 2018, both self-identified Republicans and Democrats agree.”

Some key findings of the survey:

  • More than six in 10 Americans believe that Congress members should pay a lot of attention to their constituents and the general public, while only one in 10 say Congress should pay a lot of attention to donors and lobbyists.
  • Six in 10 adults say that representatives pay a lot of attention to people who donate money to their campaign, while only two in 10 believe that representatives pay such attention to the American majority.
  • Fifty-eight percent of Americans say Congress members pay a lot of attention to party leaders, but only 18 percent said representatives should pay such attention to party leaders.

Source: NORC at the University of Chicago