Many indicators help show that politics is failing to meet the needs and expectations of citizens. While no single measure is perfect, and there is debate about how to interpret individual measures, the overall pattern of public dissatisfaction with politics suggests deep concerns with the system.
Public trust in the federal government is near an all-time low since at least 1958, with a peak after the 9/11 attacks, but then a resumption of a steady decline, with recent stagnation around 20% (see Figure 1).
Congressional approval ratings, which have averaged under 20% in every calendar year since 2010, stand at 20% as of August 2017 (see Figure 2).
A large proportion of the general public have an unfavorable opinion of both parties, and this proportion is at a near all-time high (see Figure 3). (Note that the recent modest improvement in favorability is typical in a presidential election year.)
Despite rising partisanship in Congress since 2009, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as independents has been substantially greater than the percentage who identify themselves with either major party (see Figure 4).
Finally, a clear majority of Americans believe that a third party is necessary (see Figure 5).
There are many more signs of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and frustration with the effectiveness of our political system. All point to the large and growing divergence between what our political system delivers and what citizens actually want and need.