A majority of voters across seven Western countries, including the United States, France and the United Kingdom, believe their democracy is in worse shape than it was five years ago, according to a poll whose results were seen by POLITICO.

Nearly seven in 10 American respondents said the state of democracy had declined in recent years, while 73 percent of poll takers shared the same opinion in France. In the United Kingdom, more than six out of 10 respondents said that democracy was working less well than five years ago, according to the poll which was carried out by Ipsos in September.

The results reveal widespread angst about the state of democracy ahead of major votes in the United States, the U.K, and the European Union in the year ahead — as well as mixed views of the 27-member union.

In all but one of the countries — which also included Croatia, Italy, Poland and Sweden — about half of voters reported being “dissatisfied” with the way democracy was working, while majorities agreed with the statement that the system is “rigged” in favor of the rich and powerful, and that “radical change” was needed.

Only in Sweden did a clear majority, 58 percent, say they were satisfied with how the system of government was working.

Among EU countries, the survey revealed deeply contrasting views on the state of the Union. A majority of respondents in the countries surveyed said they were in favor of the EU, but a plurality in all the countries said they were dissatisfied with the state of democracy at the EU level, while only tiny minorities reported feeling they had any influence over EU decisions.

Those views were offset by higher levels of satisfaction at the way democracy worked at the local level.

Only in Croatia was satisfaction with democracy at the EU level, at 26 percent, higher than it was for democracy at the national level, at 21 percent.

The results of the survey will give EU leaders food for thought as they gear up for European Parliament elections. While voters elect the Parliament directly, the choice of who gets the top jobs — such as president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, or the head of the EU Council, which gathers heads of state and government — is indirect. National leaders pick their nominees, which are then submitted to the Parliament for conformation.

In recent years, EU-level political parties have been trying to make the process more democratic by asking leaders to give top jobs to the lead candidates, or Spitzenkandidaten, from the party that wins the most votes in the election. But that system was ignored by leaders after the last election, when they rejected the lead candidate of the conservative European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, in favor of current Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

While all the major parties say they are committed to proposing lead candidates ahead of the next EP election, leaders haven’t publicly committed to follow the system.

“These findings suggest that a key challenge for the EU ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections will be to leverage continuing support for the EU project to help restore positive perceptions of EU institutions, agencies and bodies,” Christine Tresignie, managing director of Ipsos European public affairs, said in a statement.

The poll was carried out September 21-30 via an online random probability survey. Respondents aged 16 and over were questioned in Croatia, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, while in the United States adults aged 18 and over were polled.


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By David

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