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Poll: Three-quarters in US Say They Lack Influence

  • Associated Press

FILE - A joint session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2017. Washington power brokers "don't care about people like me," a Bosque County, Texas, resident said in a recent AP-NORC poll.

Linda Bell, a beekeeper and farmer who makes about $11,000 a year, feels Washington power brokers have no intention of making health care affordable.

"They don't care about people like me," the Bosque County, Texas, resident said.

Three-quarters of Americans say people like themselves have too little influence in Washington, rare unanimity across political, economic, racial and geographical lines and including both those who approve and disapprove of President Donald Trump, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Majorities also don't have a great deal of confidence in most of the nation's institutions. That's especially true of Congress, which takes the biggest hit, and the presidency.

Even at a time of deepening economic and political divisions, the poll finds widespread agreement that small businesses, poor Americans and workers have too little power in Washington, while lobbyists, big business and rich people have too much.

The results are notable because Trump won his presidency with a populist call to arms to make "forgotten Americans" his priority and to restore jobs to people still struggling amid the economy's recovery. Republicans who control Congress echoed Trump's vow to overhaul President Barack Obama's national health care law and cut people's taxes as part of a drive to restore the American middle class. Those efforts have wobbled, however, amid Trump's efforts to crack down on Muslim immigration, his feud-filled Twitter feed, investigations into allegations of collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign, and Congress' inability so far to come up with a replacement for what's commonly known as Obamacare.

Out of touch

"He said he was going to restore the middle class, and I thought he would pick really good people who would do that. But the people he picked seem to be not in touch with the middle class," said Hobart, Indiana, resident James Pavelka, 60, a health and safety instructor who said he voted for Trump.

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.
FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

Pavelka was referring to Trump's Cabinet, thought to be the wealthiest in modern times. "During the campaign, he said, 'I'm for the little guy.' People were angry and he fed on that and he knew how to do that."

It's not just Trump who makes people feel like they lack power.

Only 6 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress, with wide agreement across party lines.

Fourteen percent of people said they have a great deal of confidence in the executive branch, which includes the president and all of the Cabinet agencies, and 24 percent say the same of the Supreme Court.

Most Americans feel solid about the armed forces, with about 56 percent saying they have a great deal of confidence in the people running the military.

About three in 10 Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in the FBI, and a third of them say the same of the scientific community. Both are trusted more by Democrats than Republicans.

Beyond government, only about 11 percent of Americans say they have a lot of confidence in the news media, the target of angry tweets by Trump.

And just one in 10 expresses a great deal of confidence in major companies, banks and financial institutions, or labor unions.

There's no question that Trump, a Manhattan real estate magnate with a global business empire, has little personally in common with the majority of people in the U.S., where the median household income is around $54,000 a year. But Jennifer McDonald, an office manager from Arvada, Colorado, said the president shares her loathing of the Washington establishment. Still, she said she was disappointed in Trump's "hissy fits" on Twitter and downright angry with the leaders of Congress who share her party but not her priorities of "just getting things done" — such as cutting taxes and replacing Obama's health care law.

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks at Krasinski Square at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. Poll respondent Linda Bell of Texas says she thinks Trump "has more respect for people like me than has been shown in the past."
FILE - President Donald Trump speaks at Krasinski Square at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. Poll respondent Linda Bell of Texas says she thinks Trump "has more respect for people like me than has been shown in the past."

'Get it done'

"There are times when I'm watching them and thinking, 'I just don't know who you're speaking for,' " McDonald, 44, says of the GOP Congress. "All they do is stand there and argue and I think, 'My God, would you please realize what you have here? You have control of both houses. Get it done.' "

Bell, the 55-year-old Texas beekeeper, said she still liked Trump because "he's scrappy. I like someone who's a little scrappy." It's early in Trump's administration, she noted, "and I do believe he has more respect for people like me than has been shown in the past." But she doubts any health care law Congress passes and Trump signs is going to make it easier for her to afford insurance — which she says would eat up $675 of the roughly $881 she nets every month.

"They are not thinking about people, they are thinking about politics," Bell said of Washington power brokers. "It's kind of like I accepted when I was in my early 20s that 'OK, I'm going to be lied to' coming out of Washington, and I have been."

The AP-NORC poll of 1,068 adults was conducted June 8-11 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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