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Journalists Shocked to Learn Who Americans Think the Real ‘Threat to Democracy’ Is

A new New York Times/Siena College poll found that most voters agree that U.S. democracy is “under threat” — but they completely disagree with the mainstream media consensus on who the threat is.

SO WHAT

Members of the media are not happy to learn how many Americans view them as “the enemy of the people.”

THE POLL

“While 74 percent of registered voters agreed that democracy was ‘under threat,’ only about 17 percent of voters described the threat in a way that squares with discussion in mainstream media and among experts — with a focus on Republicans, Donald J. Trump, political violence, election denial, authoritarianism, and so on,” Times chief political analyst Nate Cohn wrote of the poll in his newsletter Tuesday.

In fact, a strikingly large number of voters described the threat to democracy in terms that could be described as Trumpian.

Drain the swamp?: “When respondents were asked to volunteer one or two words to summarize the current threat to democracy, government corruption was brought up most often — more than Mr. Trump and Republicans combined,” Cohn noted.

  • “Instead, they point most frequently to a longstanding concern about the basic functioning of a democratic system: whether government works on behalf of the people.”
  • 68% of voters say the the government “mainly works to benefit powerful elites” rather than “ordinary people,” per the cross-tabs.
  • 8 percent of voters name polarization as the major threat to democracy.

Enemy of the people?: 59% of voters — including 34% of Democrats and 54% of independents — say the mainstream media is a “major threat” to democracy, according to the poll.

  • That’s more than any other politician or political institution the Times asked about.
  • Nos. 2-4 on the list: former President Donald Trump (47%), President Joe Biden (39%) and the Democrats (35%).

Make American Great Again?: Unsurprisingly then, voters haven’t heeded warnings about the death of democracy in the pages of the Times and other mainstream media outlets.

  • Few voters (8%) say “the state of democracy” is the most important issue facing the country today, the survey found, in line with previous polling.
  • The economy (26%) and inflation (18%) were by far the biggest concerns, with 3% of voters volunteering inflation as the threat to democracy.
  • 84% of voters believe democracy can be repaired within the framework of America’s current laws and institutions.

THE REACTION

Mainstream media commentators — like Washington Post columnist Max Boot and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe — reacted to the Times/Siena poll with shock and dismay.

“History is replete with examples of the dangers of apathy,” Julianna Goldman lamented in an op-ed for Bloomberg Wednesday, citing the survey and other data.

  • “For election denialism to become accepted reality, voters don’t necessarily have to believe in it. They just have to not care.”

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