February 21st, 2010
08:45 AM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: Majority think government is broken


Eighty-six percent of people questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll say that our system of government is broken. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) - Americans overwhelmingly think that the government in this country is broken, according to a new national poll. But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Sunday morning, also indicates that the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what's broken can be fixed.

Eighty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say that our system of government is broken, with 14 percent saying no. Of that 86 percent, 81 percent say that the government can be fixed, with 5 percent saying it's beyond repair.

Full results (pdf)

The number of Americans who think the government is broken has grown eight points since 2006. "That increase is highest among higher-income Americans and people who live in rural areas," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Maybe it's just a coincidence, but those are the groups that make up the bulk of the Tea Party activists today."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: CNN poll • Popular Posts
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Dan in FL

    What's wrong with Washington can be fixed by voting out the incumbent politicians and voting in dedicated, intelligent public servants. This means voting out the politicians in YOUR state/district, not waiting for everyone else's incumbents to be voted out. Furthermore, our current politicians must be voted out at the primary level so that we have real choices at election time. Just say NO to reelecting the current bunch of crooks (Democrat and Republican) and we will have a chance to take back our country.

    February 21, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. nater

    The only one trying to fix anything in this country is President Obama. Republicans have managed to submarine everything.

    February 21, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. Fed Up

    When Harry Reid stands up and says that buying votes is "business as usual" and Pelosi stands up there and says she doesn't care what the American people want, they are going to get health care reform, government is broken. Can it be fixed? Yes, vote out every incumbent every time untli they get the message that they work for the people, not the fame. GET RID OF ALL THE SCALLYWAGS!!!

    February 21, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. DG

    Until a solution is provided to where politicians no longer have to raise money for election/re-election, we will continue to have representation for "big money" rather than for the people. Congressmen are human and must satisfy those who contribute to their campaigns: corporations, banking institutions, and all of the other self-interest groups in America. I have suggestions. But the "big money" would never allow the citizens to reclaim their government.

    February 21, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  5. TOM

    Americans seem to focus and thrive on trivia issues. Republicans are thrilled that we are more interested in Tiger Woods than we are the economy or healthcare. Let's face it, Americans are easily fooled.

    February 21, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  6. Barb Morris

    Absolutely, it's broken. Congress has been bought and paid for by special interest lobbies, in particular, corporate constituencies. Our representatives are not representing the public's interest; only their own, i.e., keeping their jobs. They do this by selling their souls; it's time for term limits to get serious consideration. If term limits are good for the executive branch, for governors, etc., then why NOT congress? How we get that to happen is a huge question....

    February 21, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  7. Ian, Philadelphia PA

    "Maybe it's just a coincidence, but those are the groups that make up the bulk of the Tea Party activists today."

    Typical ... always looking for some excuse ... blame the Tea Party folks. That will stir up the liberals.

    86% is 86%. That's beyond a majority. That's beyond a super-majority. When you consider the fact that 10% of Americans are too stupid to even know whether our government is broken or not, that basically means nearly 100% of functioning Americans think our government is broken.

    Tea Partiers or no Tea Partiers, that's a number you can't ignore. And while I'm not a Tea Partier I am one who thinks our government is fundamentally broken.

    February 21, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  8. liz

    Government is us! it's broken because a majority of people don't even pay attention to what's going on in government. When you have low participation, you end up with abberations like George Bush stealing the presidency. It's our responsibility as Americans to educate ourselves and make intelligent choices at the voting booth. Look at what who wants to do for, and to, the American people, and put in the people who want to make government work. Don't elect people who hate government and think it is the embodiment of evil. They can't and won't govern effectively. I believe it was Abe LIncoln who said the purpose of government is to do what we cannot do for ourselves. Nobody would be able to pay for his own personal policeman, paved road, or school. Government is us collectively doing what needs to be done for the country and its people. We pay taxes so we can live in a civilized society. People who rail against taxes never really stop to think what life would be like without all the things our taxes do for us. They are greedy, selfish people. If government is broken, look in the mirror and see why, and then do something to help fix it.

    February 21, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  9. hooverguide

    Just one opinion of we, the people – our system of government is not broken. The documents setting forth the foundation of our government have served us well – it is we, the people, and those we elect that are broken. We cannot seem to see past the glint of having to the glory of giving. Too often our leaders are consumed with lust and greed fed by what appears to be power granted to them by election. Our trust is broken. We no longer trust our leaders to know or behave with the unspoken laws of morals and ethics. We no longer believe our leaders can take action for the good of all. We need a hero and the horizon is empty.

    February 21, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. Tom in Delaware

    The number of Americans who think the government is broken has grown eight points since 2006. "That increase is highest among higher-income Americans and people who live in rural areas," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Maybe it's just a coincidence, but those are the groups that make up the bulk of the Tea Party activists today."

    How about that...not exactly the stupid, trailer-trash, redneck 'tea-baggers' that the 'Geniuses' on the Left proclaim them to be, now is it?

    I've been involved with the Tea Party for a year and our numbers are growing by leaps and bounds.

    The Tea Party movement is the real power in the country today...no othe group comes close.

    Time for some of you to wake up and smell the coffee.

    February 21, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  11. ran

    It is broken because of the fear/hate/obstructionist/purity Republicans and the likes of Lieberman and blue dogs like Nelson.

    Until we the people get ride of these type elected officials congress especially the senate will remain broken.

    The Republicans have used the filibuster more times in this session alone then was used in the whole decade of the 1970s.

    If we want our Government to work again as it should for the people then in 2010 we need to vote in more true Democrats or Independents and not reward a single Republican for their obstructionism with any wins.

    February 21, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. Kyle

    We put up with George W. for eight years, but we're so impatient that President Obama hasn't fix the mess that Bush and his Republican thugs left us. We expected a major miricle in just one year??!! Something is wrong with our thinking.....duh!

    February 21, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. Mike

    Can't be fixed. Too much corruption and kickbacks and nobody is willing to get their hands dirty. A majority of students also don't have basic skills and expect a great job because that is what everyone told them. Nobody takes responsibility and nobody is given a failing grade......a total disaster. Great job baby boomers...worst generation.

    February 21, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. Lexie Lou

    Yep, after eight years of Republican rule, I'd say it's broken.

    February 21, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. Tony in Maine

    Of course, when the media repeats this meme ad nauseum it has absolutely no effect on people's perceptions.

    Poli Sci # 1 taught by Professor Atwater with TA Karl Rove –

    Get a friendly news outlet – today that would be a certain cable news channel named after a small mammel – to put out the story. Other news outlets, fearing they are behind, will immediately include it. It has the added advantage of being virtually no cost – an associate producer trainee can rewrite it. Attach some file video and voila. You have a story that can be run on loop for the loopy.

    After a week, even the strongest mind accepts the story as true.

    The government is no more broken in 2009 than it was in 2005. In fact, a great deal of progress has been made toward repairing the damage done by Cheney/Bush. Of course, that isn't a position taken by that unnamed cable news outlet that features an certifiably insane person and a number of venal bobbleheads.

    February 21, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  16. Gilliard


    February 21, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  17. DB

    This is an interesting premise. I'd submit that the government isn't broken, but rather that this is standard operating procedure. If you observe closely how the Constitution was written, our government was designed to protect the interests of wealthy people with land only. The Bill of Rights was added later so that there would be some protections for the citizens (obviously not all of them). If you look today, civil and human rights are still being fought for, yet the government functions best for the wealthy corporations and rich. This nation was intended to be a catalyst for capitalism mainly, with the illusions of personal freedom and security to keep folks from revolt. Just read history and it becomes obvious.

    February 21, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. Ramon Lozano

    We elect representatives that should be representing the views of their constituents. What I see is more alignment to far left or far right political ideologies and representation and loyalty to the party more so than to the people that voted them in to office. It's also incredible that there is absolutely no sense of compromise or committment to "American" ideals. These politicians seemingly can't agree just because they come from different political parties. They behave like high school cliques. Pathetic.

    February 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  19. BHS

    It's not the government thats broken, its the people that run it. We have the same exact form of government we've always had, and its considered to be the best in the world. Now we have greedy power hungry selfish people who put themselves before their responsibilities and the people of America so we have a government run by corporations instead, thats whats broken. And somehow its come to if a Democrat says one thing a Republican has to say the opposite like its the law and vice versa. Bi-partisanship is completely gone and all anyone wants to do is argue with the other side to prove that their right, even though all of them are wrong.

    February 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  20. Abby

    It's a good thing this only includes 86% of Americans. Therefore CNN only has to give it one small column. If it involved the 11% of Americans who identify as tea partiers, then we would surely have 5-10 columns about it. I wonder if the tea partiers weren't predominantly white men if the media would be so obsessed with covering them. The mainstream media does a fine job of ignoring any group that is comprised mainly of women and/or people of color.

    February 21, 2010 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  21. Minnesota gal

    Because of the fact that the press, CNN included does not get to the heart of the matter as to WHY GOVERNMENT IS BROKEN IN DC. The republicans are waging a campaign of obstruction and lies. They are trying and with some success convincing the public that it is the fault of the Democrats. While it is the sly, sneaking actions of the republicans. The require 60 votes to even bring a bill to the floor of the senate. They filbuster if they don't get their way about everything. This type of actions by the republicans started way back in the 70's when Reagan took office. The republicans think they are entitled to everything and they lie, cheat and steal (two elections for president) to get their way.


    February 21, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. Susan in NC

    Of course, our system of government is broken. With the Replublican't "Party of No" refusing to even participate in negotiations, we're stuck! History tells us that the pendulum of time will swing back and forth between the two political parties and that will always be, but.....when one of the parties refuses to even participate, nothing will be accomplished. And, I hope not, but I suspect when Republicans are back in power, the Democrats will turn around and "re-pay" them with their own refusal to participate as well. Then we will have come full-circle and still have a government that is broken - parties first, country last. I see no way to break the cycle but to vote out incumbents who refuse to participate in the actual work of governing this country.

    February 21, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  23. AnnieL

    It's not just government that's broken. The blame for a broken government needs to be shared by all. Voters who expect government to "fix" everything that's wrong with the economy overnight.. Big business executives who lobby to get special treatment from government and then don't take responsibility for their own actions. The news media that have become opinion-givers, scandalmongers and entertainers and fail to give voters the hard facts they need to form intelligent opinions about government policies and important issues. And too many people who are selfish, greedy or lazy.

    February 21, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  24. AP in Illinois

    If government is broken, then I don't know why anyone would vote Republican. They can't fix it either.

    February 21, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  25. americananotparties

    Add me to the 86%. Our governments 2 party system has run it's course. It is ran by big business, lobbyists, and elections.. We will never know whether Democrat ideas or Republican ideas are better because without a super majority nothing will ever get changed.

    I understand Republicans anger with Obama, it has been fed and built up on the rights plan to win the next election from day 1. How do you know someof his plans won't work? They have become the party of NO just to win the next election... to hell with the rest of us, the majority that voted for him...

    So now what, a republican enters the white house... so what, if you dont have a majority in all branches they won't get anything done either...

    So how do we fix it? We get rid of checks and balances... scary yes, but only way.... vote for Pres every four year, and the buck stops with the pres. If the economy, housing jobs etc.. go in tank, you vote for a new one four years later. If he/she does a great job, they stay... simple as that...

    The right is screaming for smaller govt... how's that for small.....

    February 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
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