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Faith in US democracy slipping fast

Confidence in vote count for midterms shaky, poll finds, as divisions mount

People walk on Times Square in New York, the United States, Nov 23, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Lindsay Cui, a financial adviser in Silicon Valley, is disappointed in the current state of the United States, and she is far from alone.

"It's very troubling in this divided nation," Cui said as she turned away from a TV news program filled with yet more reports illustrating the divisions in the country. "Everyone just stays in their own silos, and they don't find common ground. Now the Democrats and Republicans don't even agree on fundamental facts. News is skewed and twisted by right-wing podcasts reporting opinions versus facts."

Her disappointment was mirrored in the results of a poll that found many people have a negative outlook on the country's current status. Only just shy of half the respondents feel confident that votes in next month's congressional midterm elections will be tallied correctly.

According to the poll of 1,129 adults released last week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about half of those surveyed feel US democracy is working poorly and just one in 10 think it is working well.

The poll, which was conducted from Oct 6-10, also found that 37 percent of respondents said US democracy functioned "somewhat well", and 52 percent said they believed the country's democracy was working "not at all" or "not too well".

Some 47 percent of those polled said they have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence that the votes in the midterm elections will be counted accurately.

Confidence is highest among Democrats, with 74 percent saying they are highly confident. On the Republican side, 25 percent said they have high confidence, 30 percent have moderate confidence and 45 percent have little to no confidence. The poll found that 58 percent of Republicans still believe President Joe Biden's election wasn't legitimate.

Cui said former president Donald Trump "is a product of how we got here". "Look at the number of candidates on the ballots in November's elections, they just scream election fraud and still deny Biden won," she told China Daily.

Despite partisan differences when it comes to vote counting and the state of democracy in the US, Republicans and Democrats both have negative outlooks about how leaders are chosen under the political system, according to the poll.

Only 30 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans are optimistic, while 42 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans are pessimistic about how leaders are chosen.

'Violent attack on Capitol'

After a divisive presidential election nearly two years ago, and the false claims of widespread fraud as well as a violent attack on the US Capitol, observers said democracy in the US is declining.

The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance labeled the US a "backsliding democracy" in a report last year. A historic turning point came when Trump baselessly questioned the results of the 2020 elections, according to the report.

US democracy is at "a dangerous inflection point", according to a report in September by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The country's democratic decline has accelerated, the report said, despite a record turnout in the 2020 presidential election.

Cyrus Janssen, a US video blogger who lived in China for a decade, said it is especially difficult to see US democracy in decline as the country always bills itself as the champion of democracy around the world.

"Being back in the US for a month, I can honestly say I've never seen the country so divided as I've seen right now," Janssen said in a YouTube episode.

Janssen, who now lives in Canada, likens the decline to a snowball rolling down a hill. "It's just getting bigger and bigger, gaining more snow and going faster and faster."

Janssen also said the democratic process has been corrupted by money. "I think many Americans are so frustrated with how this democracy is going, and the lack of options and choices."

liazhu@chinadailyusa.com