Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Most Disconnected from Government

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Most Disconnected from Government

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- More than half of Americans say in a survey they feel distant and disconnected from government. Only those 65 or older were inclined to feel a sense of connection.

And those who said they felt connected were far more likely to vote, contact elected officials and attend public hearings or meetings, said the survey, taken for the Council for Excellence in Government and released yesterday.

The poll showed that six out of 10 said they felt very or fairly disconnected from government, while four out of 10 said they felt at least fairly connected. Among those age 65 or older, 56 percent said they felt a connection with government.

"The disconnect is more prevalent among younger Americans, and that has an important role to play in the future," said Patricia McGinnis, council president. She said the council would be looking for ways to increase interest among the young in schools and through the media.

Voter turnout in the 1998 congressional elections was 36 percent, the lowest national turnout in more than 50 years. That has heightened worry about dropping interest in government.

"Look at how government is taught in schools," McGinnis said. It's very much historical, pretty flat, pretty one-dimensional. We have to be more creative."

The survey of 1,214 adults was taken by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Robert Teeter from May 21 to June 1 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Teeter suggested the connected feeling of older Americans to their government comes from the kinds of experiences they had during formative years of the Depression and World War II.

"The key is what age were you when you were politicized," he said. "Older Americans have gone through things that were unifying experiences."

The survey showed that just about three in 10 trust the federal government to do what is right just about all or most of the time, a drop of 9 percentage points from 1997.

Two-thirds in the poll said government pursues its own agenda, while just a fourth say it pursues the people's agenda.

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