- Most Americans want to overhaul the country’s economic, political, and healthcare systems, according to Pew.
- Despite widespread discontent, few Americans indicated they are confident such changes can happen.
- The findings show Americans are generally more dissatisfied than residents of other advanced economies.
As the post-pandemic economy starts to take shape, most Americans are hoping it looks extremely different than its current state.
A majority of Americans indicated they want major changes or complete reforms to much of how the US operates, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Eighty-five percent of surveyed adults said they want an overhaul of the country’s political systems, while 66% said they want major changes to the US economy. Just over three-fourths of respondents said there needs to be major reform to the country’s healthcare systems.
The findings show Americans are generally more dissatisfied with the government than residents of other advanced economies. Desires to change political systems were only higher in Spain and Italy, with 86% and 89% of respective residents wanting major overhauls.
Only the residents of South Korea, Greece, Spain, and Italy were more dissatisfied with their national economies than Americans. The US had the second-largest share of people calling for healthcare reform, surpassed only by Greece.
The findings also reveal a bleak outlook among Americans as the country pushes toward economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The US is outpacing many other countries’ recoveries as rising rates of vaccinations have fueled reopening and strong consumer spending. US economic output has already fully recovered its pandemic-era slump, and officials say the country is expected to return to full employment next year.
Despite these improvements, the surveys show widespread discontent with the state of the nation. The survey period covers the time that virus cases remained elevated, the labor shortage curbed hiring, and inflation soared to decade highs. While recovery was underway, new obstacles were slowing it down.
And while most Americans want major changes throughout the country, few are optimistic those overhauls can happen – while 85% of respondents say they want major political reform in the US, only 28% are confident the system can change.
Part of the pessimism comes from partisan conflict and a fraught political climate, the Pew survey indicates. Desires to overhaul some systems are starkly different between Democrats and Republicans. While 80% of Democrats think the economic system needs a complete overhaul, just half of Republicans feel the same. And where 39% of Democrats want major changes to healthcare, roughly half as many Republicans agree.
The partisan divide is no clearer than in the 50-50 split Senate. Democrats have struggled to pass much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda as Republicans block efforts with the filibuster. Some of Biden’s social spending plans have been approved through the lengthy reconciliation process, which requires a 50-vote majority. Yet the complicated process can only be used so many times, and infighting between moderate and progressive Democrats also poises a challenge to Biden’s spending ambitions.
Partisan divisions are partially why so many Americans are hungry for an overhaul, Pew said. Nine-in-ten Americans see conflict between people of different political parties, intensifying “unhappiness with the state of democracy and a strong desire for political reform,” according to Pew. Only 41% of US respondents said they were satisfied with how democracy is working.
Altogether, the survey shows a country experiencing mass discontent. Few Americans report feeling happy with the country’s political, economic, or healthcare systems. Yet most of those wanting major change aren’t optimistic it can happen, and show little faith in the country’s democratic processes.