America and Its Institutions

The most recent NBC/WSJ survey (June 8-11, 2019) had a section looking at America and its Institutions. Here are most of the findings from that section.

The Supreme Court remains a primary institution in which the public has more confidence than less. In several other significant institutions, the public has less confidence than more.

  A great deal
/ Quite a bit
Very little
/ None
Supreme Court 38% 20%
The Presidency


Congress 11% 47%
National News Media 17% 48%

The Supreme Court and the judicial branch end up on the top of the heap when Americans are asked whether the co-equal branches of government have the right amount of power or too much power. Americans also say that as compared to the other three branches of government, the president and executive branch have too much power.

  Amount of power Too much power
Supreme Court and Judicial branch 59% 19%
Congress and Legislative branch


President and Executive Branch 46% 36%

Americans are divided down the middle when asked whether democracy in America needs minor modifications or a complete overhaul.

Democracy in America Needs:

Total overhaul/major changes 49%
Minor modifications/working well 50%

60% agree that voting is the only way people like them can have anything to say about how the government runs things.

But 65% of us think the system of government does not do well at planning ahead and preparing to improve the countries long term problems.

And more than half of us disagree with the statement “even though we are polarized and divided on some issues, our political system still works to solve the problems we face as a country”.

When asked whether they are confident that America’s best years are still ahead or whether they are worried that the country’s best years may be behind us,
the number or folks who think the best years are ahead is the same today as it was in 1990 while slightly more think the best years are behind us.

  June 2019 April 1990
Best years ahead 44% 45%
Best years behind



The following are some potential changes that the country might consider and that at least a majority of Americans agree with as ways to improve democracy.

  • Limit the number of years a Member of Congress could serve in the same elected position. (71%)
  • Make election day a national holiday to encourage greater voter participation. (66%)
  • Make sure every adult citizen is automatically enrolled to vote. (65%)
  • Elect as president the person who receives the most votes nationally, rather than who wins in the electoral college. (56%)

43% of Americans think that all or a major part of blame for the partisanship that goes on in Washington lies at the feet of the Trump administration. 34% say all or a major part of the blame belongs to Republicans in Congress while 30% say fault lies with the Democrats in Congress.

[NBC/WSJ 6/11/19]

85% of us say that over the last several years political debate in this country has become more negative. 85% say it is less respectful, 76% say it is less fact-based and 60% say it is less focused on issues. [PEW 5/13/19]