Knowing as we all do the caliber of most of those individuals currently under the employ of our federal government, as well as our state and local governments, do we really need a poll pointing out our government’s less than stellar problem solving abilities?  Personally, I would argue that we most certainly do not.  But, be that as it may, there was apparently someone, in their infinite wisdom, who thought that just such a poll was indeed needed.  And as most of us likely expected, as the first voting nears in this the 2016 presidential contest, it seems that most Americans have little or no confidence in the federal government’s ability to confront what they see as being the country’s most important priorities.

So it was then than this past December ‘The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research’ conducted such a poll in an effort to essentially confirm that which the vast majority of Americans were already convinced of.  And what the poll found out was that more than 6 in 10 respondents expressed only slight confidence — or none at all — that the federal government can make any amount of progress when it comes to any of the more problems facing the nation in 2016. Terrorism edged health care as the issue most often mentioned — each by about one-third of those questioned — when people were asked to volunteer the issues they believe Washington should address this election year.

The polling would at least seem to suggest an electorate that is more focused on the economy and domestic affairs than on foreign policy. Two-thirds of respondents included an economic issue on their priority list, and about 4 in 5 named a domestic policy other than the economy.  In addition to those who mentioned terrorism, nearly half added another foreign policy matter, and immigration was the next most frequent topic raised.  And perhaps most vexing for the dozen or so candidates vying to succeed Barry “Almighty”, the poll indicates widespread skepticism about the government’s ability to solve problems, with no significant difference in the outlook between Republicans and Democrats.

There were those who took part in this poll that were of the opinion that members of Congress are essentially unable to pass anything of importance, or that isn’t grossly self-serving, and were therefore not at all confident about seeing any solutions coming about in 2016.  And there were some who while they admitted to possessing some level of confidence in our government’s problem solving ability, bemoaned a system of lobbyists paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to get Congress to do what they want instead of what the people want.  And some described the executive branch as a bureaucratic behemoth and the legislative branch as an endlessly partisan wrangle saying that’s why government can’t get anything done.

Along with terrorism and health care, respondents were most likely to cite immigration, education and unemployment as priorities.  Democrats and Republicans were about equally likely to mention unemployment, though there was a racial disparity, with more blacks mentioning the issue than whites.  Also, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to cite terrorism as a priority, and Immigration was mentioned by twice as many Republicans as Democrats.  One-fifth of Republicans mentioned the federal budget deficit, compared with less than a one-tenth of Democrats.  Democrats were more likely to consider guns as public policy priority, along with education, crime, racial problems, the environment and climate change.

Many of those breakdowns reflect the separate debates now playing out in the presidential race.  The GOP field, led by rather vocal candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, characterizes Barry “Almighty” as being an irresponsible, profligate manager of taxpayer resources, and unable to ensure national security and protect U.S. interests amid international threats and strife. The leading Democrat candidates, Hitlery Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, are focused more directly on economic matters, both framing themselves as supposed defenders of the middle class.  Sanders rails against the disproportionate economic and political power of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.

While the candidates may work to reflect the priorities of their respective bases, many if the respondents taking part this poll said they really haven’t heard much of anything that improves their outlook when it comes to those things of most concern to them actually being addressed.  And there was some level of agreement in that Trump or Sanders would offer what was described as being “the most radical change” from the status quo, but there were many who didn’t particularly like what either of these men has been saying.  And many admitted, exhibiting some level of frustration, that it was extremely likely that 95 percent of Congress will get re-elected anyway.  An assessment that is very likely to prove pretty accurate.


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