IU’s Annual Survey on Support for Institutions of Representative Government
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — While Democrats and Republicans share similar views on several components of democratic governance, including the value of an independent judiciary, they have sharply contrasting attitudes about the importance of a free and independent press, a Bill of Rights to protect the rights of political minorities, the need for compromise lawmaking and restrictions on voting.
These are among the key findings of an annual survey of U.S. public attitudes about political institutions and public affairs overseen by the Indiana University Center on Representative Government, a non-partisan, educational institution founded by former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, that aims to improve Americans’ understanding of the role of representative government and strengthen civic engagement. This marked the 15th year that IU has engaged with the Cooperative Election Study, which is led by the center’s research director, Distinguished Professor Edward G. Carmines, an expert on U.S. public opinion and voting behavior, the Warner O. Chapman Professor of Political Science, and a Rudy Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.
The nationwide study, conducted last November, indicated that most Democrats (62 percent) and Republicans (56 percent) agree that an “independent judiciary” is very important to America’s representative government.
Strong majorities of Democrats (66 percent) and Republicans (64 percent) feel the same about “checks and balances in the exercise of power between Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court.”
And while fewer Americans believe that “a Congress with power equal to the president” is very important, the survey showed minimal differences in views on this issue among Republicans (30 percent) and Democrats (37 percent).
Yet on two significant matters, partisan agreement breaks down. While 68 percent of Democrats agree that “a free and independent press” is very important, only 55 percent of Republicans feel the same.
Additionally, asked about “a Bill of Rights that protects the rights of a political minority,” only 39 percent of Republicans felt this was very important, compared to 52 percent of Democrats.
“At least when it comes to these aspects of American government, there are partisan similarities as well as partisan differences,” Dr. Carmines said. “And as we found in the 2020 survey the partisan differences are especially striking concerning a free and independent press and the Bill of Rights guaranteeing the rights of a political minority.”
Respondents also weighed in on the kind of representation they want members of Congress to provide. Specifically, they were asked whether members of Congress should “stick to their principles no matter what,” or “compromise with their opponents to get something done.”
Consistent with most cycles since 2007, Democrats wanted compromise, but Republicans did not. About twice as many Democrats (73 percent) as Republicans (39 percent) favored compromise lawmaking.