Most Americans Think Our System Needs Major Change

Almost 75 percent of Americans think the health care system needs serious reform, for example.


If you’re not exactly satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, you are far from alone, a new survey reveals.

A just-released Pew Research Center survey found that huge majorities believe that the political, economic, and health care systems in the United States need “major changes or complete reform.”

While Americans are far from alone in their desire for change, they are also certainly among the most aggrieved of the 17 countries with “advanced economies” included in the survey. Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and Japan were the only other countries where “discontent with the status quo is especially high.”

A majority, 58 percent, of Americans aren’t satisfied with “the way democracy is working” compared to 41 percent who are. A disproportionate number of the former think that their country is more divided since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but these divisions run deeper than that.

About half of Americans say that most people disagree about basic facts, and the desire to reform the political system is “especially common” among them, which makes sense. If the situation in your country isn’t a debate between what should happen but a debate over what is happening, then it’s hard to be optimistic that the current set of rules that spawned that divide can or will close it.

Democrats and Republicans do largely agree, with majorities of 88 and 83 percent, respectively, that major changes are needed. Obviously, what they want varies wildly but that they both have disdain for the way the current system is operating explains a lot about American politics, as does the fact that the US was the only country surveyed in which those who support the governing party are more likely to support dramatic political reform.

This survey was conducted in February, just after Democrats took control (sort of) of both houses of Congress and the presidency, so this result might be the product of unique circumstances. Still, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the durability of the American political system that so many Americans seem to hate.

The U.S. is also an outlier, along with Greece, in how its citizens feel about the healthcare system. Just over three-quarters of Americans say it needs to be completely reformed, something that few politicians either party seem to fully grasp. The U.S. is also peculiar because younger people were more likely to want healthcare reform than older people.

The belief that your country has handled the pandemic poorly is linked with a desire for healthcare reform, but in the U.S. 62 percent of those who say it’s done a good job dealing with the pandemic still want “significant change,” suggesting that the dissatisfaction with the American healthcare system predates the pandemic.

The survey didn’t go into detail about the specific reasons why people are so dissatisfied or what specific changes they’d make. But it’s certain that widening wealth inequality, a patchwork health care system, and broad unhappiness with the two-party system are major problems that must be solved — for the future of our democracy.