“Exercising Citizenship in American Democracy” Survey Findings Released

 

2002 Public Opinion Survey

Exercising Citizenship in American Democracy

The Center on Congress sponsored a study of the American electorate during the 2002 Congressional Election. "Exercising Citizenship in American Democracy" is a national telephone survey focusing on the public's civic knowledge and political attitudes as well as their involvement in community affairs and participation in the political process. The Indiana University Center for Survey Research conducted the study. The survey was partially funded by the Representative Democracy in America Project through the U.S. Department of Education.

Public Attitudes on Congress and Representative Democracy

The survey asked a number of questions about citizens' knowledge and attitudes toward Congress. Here, we present the responses to those questions that focus on attitudes toward Congress and representative democracy. These questions do not have correct answers. The questions tell us how the public feels about government.

A great deal of activity takes place in the U.S. Congress. How much of that activity do you think has an important impact on your daily life?

Almost everything

7%

Most but not all

30%

Some

51%

Very little

12%

"Senators and House members don't care much what people like you think." Do you:

Strongly agree

25%

Somewhat agree

33%

Neither agree nor disagree

11%

Somewhat disagree

23%

Strongly disagree

7%

"The problem with Congress is that the House members and Senators spend all their time bickering instead of cooperating." Do you:

Strongly agree

34%

Somewhat agree

35%

Neither agree nor disagree

11%

Somewhat disagree

14%

Strongly disagree

6%

How do you feel about the way the U.S. Congress is handling its job?

Strongly approve

7%

Somewhat approve

54%

Somewhat disapprove

29%

Strongly disapprove

9%

What about the job your current Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives is doing as a legislator in Washington D.C.?

Strongly approve

15%

Somewhat approve

60%

Somewhat disapprove

16%

Strongly disapprove

8%

What about the job your current Representative is doing in taking care of specific needs at home in the district?

Strongly approve

16%

Somewhat approve

53%

Somewhat disapprove

21%

Strongly disapprove

8%

Thinking about your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, how well does your House member represent your views?

A very good job

11%

A good job

63%

Not a good job of representing your views

26%

"Most members of Congress will tell lies if they feel the truth will hurt them politically." Do you:

Strongly agree

45%

Somewhat agree

41%

Somewhat disagree

11%

Strongly disagree

3%

"Most members of Congress work hard at their jobs." Do you:

Strongly agree

21%

Somewhat agree

54%

Somewhat disagree

17%

Strongly disagree

8%

"Most members of Congress are poorly informed about important issues." Do you:

Strongly agree

13%

Somewhat agree

34%

Somewhat disagree

37%

Strongly disagree

16%

"Most members of Congress are honest." Do you:

Strongly agree

7%

Somewhat agree

46%

Somewhat disagree

29%

Strongly disagree

19%

"Most members of Congress spend more time trying to get reelected than doing work in Congress." Do you:

Strongly agree

41%

Somewhat agree

39%

Somewhat disagree

16%

Strongly disagree

4%

"Most members of Congress waste a lot of taxpayers' dollars." Do you:

Strongly agree

45%

Somewhat agree

38%

Somewhat disagree

14%

Strongly disagree

3%

Do you think it is better when one party controls both the presidency and Congress, better when one party controls the presidency and the other party controls Congress, or doesn't it matter?

One party controls both

24%

One party controls the presidency
   and the other party controls Congress

37%

Doesn't matter

38%

In many ways the United States has been very successful. When you think about the good things that have happened in the United States, how responsible do you think the government has been for these successes?

Very responsible

21%

Somewhat responsible

65%

Not too responsible

12%

Not at all responsible

2%

In particular, how about the U.S. Congress in Washington? How responsible has it been for these successes?

Very responsible

10%

Somewhat responsible

68%

Not too responsible

20%

Not at all responsible

2%

Knowledge About Congress and Representative Democracy

Here, we present responses to factual questions about Congress. For knowledge questions, or questions that have correct, factual answers, the correct response is italicized.

What is the main duty of the U.S. Congress?

To write legislation

68%

To administer the president's policies

13%

To supervise the states' governments

19%

How much of a majority is required for the U.S. Senate and House to override a presidential veto?

A bare majority - 50 percent plus one

18%

A two-thirds majority

69%

A three-fourths majority

13%

How long is the term of office for a United States Senator?

Two years

18%

Four years

35%

Six years

46%

How long is the term of office for the U.S. House?

Two years

44%

Four years

40%

Six years

16%

If the House and the Senate pass different versions of a bill, what happens-does the president choose which version he wants to sign, does the Supreme Court review the two versions, or do the House and Senate attempt to work out a compromise?

President chooses

12%

Supreme Court reviews the two versions

10%

House and Senate attempt to work
    out a compromise

78%

Where in Congress does most of the work on legislation take place?

In committees

77%

In floor debates

16%

In filibusters

7%

If there is a tie vote in the Senate, who casts the tie-breaking vote?

The President

9%

The Vice President

44%

The Speaker of the House

47%

Which one of the parties is more conservative than the other at the national level?

The Democrats

22%

The Republicans

77%

Who has the final responsibility to decide if a law is constitutional or not? Is it:

The President

11%

The Congress

19%

The Supreme Court

70%