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. Charlie in Maine

    No kidding it is broken. Ask them who is to blame. Answer the National GOP. So here is an idea. Don't vote for them and don't vote for any Dem who won't stand up to them. That is what is needed.

    They drove the car into the ditch and all they offer is a critique of the tow truck driver.

    Throw the bums out? Sure. But only the actual bums

    February 21, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. karl

    I'm one of those hated "treehuggers", and I've thought the government was broken from the moment the sent me to Viet Nam. .and taught me that my government LIES

    February 21, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. Casey Nicholson

    What's broken is the concept of the filibuster in the US Senate. We can't get anything done–or at least done the way that the Constitution intends, i.e. by way of a majority vote–because of an antiquated Senate rule that was imported from parliamentary procedure rather than mandated by the US Constitution. If we had a staight-up and down 51% vote in the Senate, we'd be seeing a lot more change.

    Conservatives of course don't want to see the filibuster done away with. Why? Because they are not in power, and changing this rule would essentially give President Obama and the Democrats free reign to do as they will–all those "conservative Democrats" in the Senate would have far less meaning if the name of the game was getting 51 votes, and the Republican Party would essentially just be there for the time being, but their votes wouldn't really amount to much.

    But, this is the question–is that really such a bad thing? Sure, for Republican legislators it would be a terrible thing to exist in the Senate without such power–but, consider this: a straight-up-or-down 51% majority vote would place much much much more accountability on the party in power. Right now, if things fall apart, Democrats can say "It's because of Republican obstructionism!!!" and they have a fairly good point, when a party that controls 41% of the Senate can dictate the course of an administration. But, if it was 51% that controlled the Senate, then it would be very clear who was to blame when the country falls apart or is not doing well.

    That said, if Republicans are serious about what they believe (that Democrats will ruin the country if allowed to govern), then they should actually be in favor of eliminating the filibuster, because that is the sure fire way to get the country to vote for Republicans. What I mean is that people are going to vote for the party whose ideas actually work. If you put the Democrats in charge and everything falls apart, then it wouldn't be long before the Republicans came to power. If they win an election and they themselves now control the Congress and the Presidency, and they actually do a good job at governing, then they should be able to retain power–if what they believe will work actually does work.

    But, a quick history lesson: The Republican Party had control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency just twice in the last 80+ years, once under Herbert Hoover in the 1920's and once under George W. Bush in the 2000's. One ended in a Great Depression, and the affects of the second are still being determined.

    Nuff said.

    February 21, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Alan Mautner

    Broken Government – I believe it can be fixed, but not by the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or the Tea Party. Government is broken because politicians need to raise so much money to get elected, they turn to big business for that money. When they take that money, they are prostituting themselves. They are selling their minds and their votes. None of the political parties are willing to fix this. The voters can't out-spend big business, but we can out-vote them. Vote for the candidate that spends the least to get elected. I have suggested a new political party; the VOPP party. Vote out prostituting politicians. This party will only support candidates that agree to take no money from any business, and no more than $100.00 from an individual.

    February 21, 2010 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Do you think it could possibly be because of things like the majority of Americans not wanting Obamacare and the nanny state and Obama and the liberals in congress keep shoving it down our throats rather than address the issues we want addressed?

    February 21, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. Ex Republican

    Government has been corrupted by Corporate America. Our original concept of Government itself is not broken. The American People no longer matter, coporations dictate. People are sidetracked by partisan non issues like abortion and gay rights. The REAL issue is the Supreme Court decision which allowed corporations to be treated like individuals. This is what has ruined our government of today. People just cant see the forest thru the trees.

    February 21, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. jim marchand

    there are simple answers to repairing our broken governments:
    get rid of special interest lobbyers
    have all parties funded equally
    permit more than two parties..
    what we have now is not democracy

    February 21, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. Ex Republican

    Government has been corrupted by Corporate America. Our original concept of Government itself is not broken. The American People no longer matter, corporations dictate. People are sidetracked by partisan non issues like abortion and gay rights. The REAL issue is the Supreme Court decision which allowed corporations to be treated like individuals. This is what has ruined our government of today. People just cant see the forest thru the trees.

    February 21, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. Dan Gingrich

    wow, are the majority of people just now figuring this out? No surprise when you consider that people actually take Sara Palin seriously. Until the "majority" of people have a reality check, the Government will continue to broken.

    February 21, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Bev

    Is is not so much that government is broken, but that integrity in office is in short supply. The common good is all too often trumped by the special interest – not really a new concept as policics goes. However, every election looks to an improved government with people of character being elected – at least that's the hope of the ballot, I do expect my elected officials to be people of honor who understand the art of compromise. Instead we have a bunch of legislators who act like three year olds holding their breath and turning blue to get their way. Government stalled is government lost, because ultimately the people are harmed by inaction.

    February 21, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. Big John

    I think what's broken are the morons who won't let President Obama succeed, those who are obstructing his intentions to help this country out of the mess it's in.

    February 21, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. Bob McKenna

    Rome fell for severaal reasons; apathy amongst the government;
    government spending out of control, unsecure borders and people
    spending gone wild. Sound familiar. Their was a revolution that started this country, why? A government ruling from 3000 miles away that either could not or would not try to understand the colonist. Then there was mistrust on the colonial side, and an ocean between them.
    There might just as well be an ocean between Washington and the people. They haven't the slightest clue what to do and how to go about iit. Those now bailing out (both rep. & dem.) know they won't be reelected no matter what they do, and I also believe they are bailing out because they know the man in the white house is totally out of control, and in way over his head. What's needed in government is
    a business man or woman. One who knows how to run big business because that is what the government is, a big business!! You need someone who can ask how much and they say no!! when necessary.
    Leave the politics to the house and senate. STOP SPENDING MONEY
    you don't have!!! Stop printing money. And for God sakes, tell Obama
    to stay at home. It seems like every day he's flying somewhere out of the country, and for what!! According to a report, he's been out of the
    country 21 times. At what cost to the American people did these little jonts across the world cost us. I don't think Obama realizes he's the President of the U.S. not a celebrity . He's like a little kid, he wants everyone to like him. MAYBE HE SHOULD READ HIS JOB DISCRIPTION. This guy is the WRONG one tat the WRONG time to be president.

    February 21, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. j

    The government IS broken thanks to the Conservatives, Republicans, and other naysayers. The Republicans and Conservatives offer no real solutions and aren't doing anything to help find any. This ISN"T the time to play partisan politics or sit on the sidelines. Progressives and Liberals are doing their best to do what they feel is best for the country. The keyword is that they are DOING something or at least trying. The Conservatives and Republicans are doing nothing but OBSTRUCT. Anyone that cares at all about this country should be mad as heck with what the Conservatives are doing. Voters need to take a good look at their representative come November 2010 and ask what have they done to solve the country's problems. Have they tried to get things done or have they been sitting on the sidelines? If they're an obstructionist, they should be voted out of office.

    February 21, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. Dean in DC

    CNN finally publishes a good poll. The number one problem is Obama far left shift from campaign mode. PT Barnum was right. A voting sucker is born every minute. Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice shame on me, not again. Obama is a one termer. Harry Reid is a goner and so will 8 other Senate DEMS this Nov. The 2 nd american revolution is underway.

    February 21, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. tony

    People start flying planes into gov't buildings, the process is broke. The President tells Republicians to bring forth a bill for health care reform and their reply is "It's all a SHAM. Both partiers are a joke, it's broke and they don't want to fix it

    February 21, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Dave

    Congress not longer does the people's business. They pander to the far left or far right of the democrat or republican party and don't care about what really matters to the american people. We elect clowns like Bachman from Michigan or the democratic idiot from Florida and they drown out anyone who tries to do any good.

    Look at health care. Started out as a good idea. No one would work together ( no finger pointing here. democrats really didn't want to work with the republicans anymore than republicans wanted to work with democrats) and an item that really matters to the majority of americans (not the Glenn Becks of the world) won't get passed. Meanwhile people are suffering and dying due to lack of health care in this country in the midst of the greatest recession we have ever had.

    The jobs bill is another example. A bipartisin bill was crafted. Harry Reid shelved it. Can't anyone get along for the greater good? People are suffering out here. Does anyone in congress care?

    Then you get newly elected officials like Brown from Mass. who say they are going to fillibuster everything. That is going to solve everything. More gridlock. Then he goes and writes a book about how wonderful he is.

    Congress is out of touch. I am sure there are some good people there tolling away trying to get things done for the people who elected them. Those people are in the minority. The majority just don't care (and the american people know it).

    February 21, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. corneliusvansant

    86% is a phenomenal number. The insistence of Democrats to move our economy socialist has led to an explosive resistance in public opinion.

    February 21, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. Dixie

    Elected official's exaggerated loyalty to their political parties over rides any loyalty to the general population of our country. The gop and dems are like rival sports teams who will do or say anything to win. The gop has this behavior down to a fine science.

    February 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. SuzyQ

    DUH!!! Now how long do you think this government has been broken?
    One year, two years, three years, four years, none of the above goof balls it has been broken for years. All of a sudden tea partiers,gop decide they want to fix it. Guess what not one can give you a plan to do so. They talk a log of jargon and thats all they do. Have not heard one plan to fix anything only mouths opening up garbage spewing out and here we still are.
    Most of them have no idea what they are even talking about. I am of average mental capacity and I can do exactly they same thing they are doing. I chose to do my changing one day and one person at a time.
    Like so many people have said where were these idiots the eight years bush and cheney were in there, worse was going on then, no one will be allowed to try and fix this mess because tea partiers and gop don't want it fixed, if they did they would jumping with joy to share all of the plans and ideas they have, but still waiting to hear a single one !!!!!!!!

    February 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. Fitz in Texas

    "Americans overwhelmingly think that the government in this country is broken"........no surprise here.

    February 21, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. IndependentAmerican

    Our government is not broken. Our government is stuck! Our government is being held hostage by the GOP Obstructionist, who will not agree to anything!

    America who is working for you? The GOP who obstructs? Or the Democrats who are doing what they can to pass healthcare?

    February 21, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  22. corneliusvansant

    The left wing cannot believe Americans are opposed to a collectivist nanny state and will go down swinging wildly, all the while rationalizing that they are right. We all can't wait until November.

    February 21, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. Retired US Army Officer - Kansas

    As for the poll I do not feel that our "system" of government is broken. The system is fine, what is broken is the self serving indivduals with which we have filled the Halls of Congress. These individuals are suppose to set aside petty personnal feels and self importance and work in unision for the betterment of our nation.

    The problems that we see in Washington are fixable, the fix is that we replace those in Congress that vote absolute straight party lines and refuse to work with anyone not affilliated with their political party. What is broken is the two party syatem.

    The method of financing elections needs to be changed so that all canidates receive the same amount of money to fund their campaign with no money coming from outside interest groups, individuals or organizations. It is ridculus for a canidate to spend 10, 20 a 100 times the amount of money in a campaign that they could hope to earn if elected. This means that the canidate is not financing or running for office but that outside forces are infact running the canidate for office, this is what is broken.

    February 21, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. John D

    Is there any wonder that the people doubt or believe in Congress. They are the biggest bunch of imbiciles, liars, crooks and thieves ever assembled under the domed roof. Stating at the White House. Obama is the biggest liar of them all. Trust him? I don't think so! You left wing dingers can keep your OBOZO hope and change and I'll Keep my eye on the kind of idiotic legislation the left keeps trying to pass.

    February 21, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  25. katiec

    Never in the history of our country have we had a political partty that totally puts their personal gains and goals over the survival of our country. A party that openly brags about obstructing every policy, idea in the hopes of destroying our president. A party that has thrown away all integrity, honor and resorted to sewer tactics, lies, distortions, fear mongering because of their goal to continue on with politics as usual, those same politics that almost destroyed our country. A party that hides behind the Bible while committing unChristian, unAmerican behavior. A party that has totally lost their way and are a disgrace to the political system and our country.

    February 21, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
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