The Political Alienation Barometer

October 27, 2022

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When democracies face challenges, the key to their survival are citizens believing in their own institutions. As our democracy experiences increased strain due to leader and activist polarization, we must shift focus to the public. Are members of the public committed to democracy? Will they stand up for our institutions when the chips are down? What do these Americans think must change?


Nearly one-third of Americans are completely politically alienated—not because their preferred party isn’t in power, but because they don’t think their voice matters. A majority of these alienated Americans believe our democracy is in crisis. They say the solution is to revamp our democracy to make it work better.

Understanding why these Americans feel alienated gives us a critical opportunity to reach them.

Executive Summary

  1. Nearly one in three Americans are completely politically alienated.
    • This includes 34% of Republicans, 29% of Independents and 25% of Democrats.
  2. An increasing number of Americans think our democracy is in crisis.
    • Half of all Americans think our democracy is in crisis, up 14 points
  3. More Americans call for structural reform.
    • 56% of Americans say the design and structure of our nation’s government needs to change, up from 40% in 2019. Alienated Americans especially say they want change.
  4. Politically alienated Americans consider the nation’s problems more serious than non-alienated Americans.
    • Alienated Americans see problems such as partisan gridlock and government corruption as particularly serious.
  5. Independents consider political extremism a serious problem across the political spectrum.
    • Two-thirds of alienated Independents view extremism in the Republican and Democratic parties as a major issue.
  6. Alienated Americans say giving ordinary people more of a voice and having politicians work across the aisle would boost political participation.
    • 71% of them also say that Congressional term limits would motivate them to get more involved.

The survey results below appear in the Public Agenda report “The Political Alienation Barometer” which summarizes findings from two national surveys of adult Americans ages 18 and older from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. Both surveys were administered in English and fielded online and by telephone. The first survey of 1,003 adult Americans was conducted from August 25 to August 29, 2022 (946 completed online and 57 completed by phone). The second survey of 1,014 adult Americans was conducted from September 9 to September 12, 2022 (934 completed online and 80 completed by phone). Both surveys were fielded by NORC. This research was solely supported by Public Agenda. When referencing this report, please cite Public Agenda.

For a complete methodology and topline with full question wording, email research@publicagenda.org or visit this link here.