Americans Aren’t Getting the Politics They Want
Sunday, October 1st, 2023
This week’s core story is about: Americans’ views of politics.
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KNEAD TO KNOW
A new study by researchers at Mount Sinai and Yale University discovered distinct blood biomarkers that can accurately identify patients with long COVID. The study is the first to confirm specific blood biomarkers in long COVID patients, marking a key step toward the development of tests to diagnose the illness. The researchers say their machine learning algorithm detected long COVID patients with 96% accuracy, finding the patients had “clear differences in immune and hormone function,” including significant reductions in cortisol levels.
A new survey by KFF (formerly The Kaiser Family Foundation) found the partisan gap in vaccine intention isn’t limited to the COVID vaccine. The survey found Democrats are almost three times more likely than Republicans to say they’ll get the updated COVID vaccine (69% vs. 25%) and around 50% more likely to say they’ll get the annual flu shot (76% vs. 51%). The results are in line with previous work finding partisanship is a key vaccine indicator in the U.S.
A new analysis by the National Snow & Ice Data Center found winter sea ice in the Antarctic has reached a record low “by a wide margin.” The analysis found sea ice in the Antarctic reached an annual maximum extent of 16.96 million square kilometers this winter (the Antarctic winter ends in September), 1.03 million square kilometers below the previous record low set in 1986.
A new report by Common Sense Media found teens are “bombarded” with hundreds of notifications each day on their smartphones. The report found half of U.S. adolescents and teens (ages 11 to 17) receive a median of 237 notifications on a typical day, with 25% of those arriving during school hours and 5% at night. In the worst cases, some teens get nearly 5,000 notifications in 24 hours.
Americans Aren’t Getting the Politics They Want
Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Americans’ views of the U.S. political system are “unrelentingly negative.”
The Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency took stage again this week, this time at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, where they “debated” “ideas” in between veiled digs and overt insults.
As it stands now, it was an interesting but useless night, truth be told, since the players on stage have very little shot of actually representing their party in the 2024 election. That once-esteemed honor turned nightmare position will most likely fall to former President Donald Trump, who remains some 40 points ahead of his in-party opponents despite his mounting civil and criminal charges.
The fact Trump remains so far ahead of his primary opponents despite his serious legal charges signals the weakness of this crop of Republican candidates. As California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom told CBS News before Monday’s Republican debate, “This is a vice presidential debate at best. This is the [junior varsity] team. Donald Trump is running away with this.”
Regardless of whether or not Newsom is right about any of the candidates having the chops to become VP, it indeed appears Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee come 2024. Barring legal charges or otherwise keeping him off the ticket, it’ll be the third consecutive presidential contest in which Trump represents the Republican vision.
Trump’s nomination will likely be a letdown for many, particularly independents and never-Trump Republicans, though it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’ll be par for the course in a political system that doesn’t appear to reflect what its people want.
What the research says:
A new survey by the Pew Research Center underscores Americans’ “unrelentingly negative” views of U.S. politics, finding hardly anyone is happy about seemingly anything.
The survey found just 4% of U.S. adults say the nation’s political system is working extremely or very well, compared to 72% who say it’s not. When asked to describe their feelings about American politics in a word or phrase, just 2% of respondents used positive terms, while 79% used negative or critical words, with “divisive” and “corrupt” being the most frequently used.
When asked to identify strengths of the U.S. political system, the survey found around one-in-ten pointed to structures of the federal government, including our system of checks and balances (12%), freedoms and democratic values (9%), and the right to vote in elections (8%). At the same time, one-in-five (22%) wrote “nothing.”
Ahead of the 2024 election, Pew found 63% of Americans say they’re dissatisfied with the available candidates, while 26% say they’re only fairly satisfied. Outside of the presidential election, the survey confirmed a downward trend in the overall view of the quality of all political candidates in recent years, finding just 26% rate today’s available political candidates as very or somewhat good, down from 47% in 2018.
Regarding political parties, the survey found 28% of respondents express unfavorable views of both the Republican and Democratic parties, the highest share to hold a negative view of both major political parties in three decades of polling (in 1994, just 6% of Americans viewed both parties negatively). A similar share (25%) also says they don’t feel well-represented by either party.
Looking beyond 2024, Pew found just 4% of Americans have a lot of confidence in the future of the U.S. political system, while 63% have not too much or none at all. Majorities say they feel “exhausted” (65%) and “angry” (55%) just thinking about politics.
Perhaps most troubling, the survey found just 16% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time, continuing a nearly two-decade-long downward trend. Americans’ trust in the government is among the lowest levels in more than 70 years of polling by Pew.
Why it matters:
The findings paint an image of a political system not run for the people but at the people’s expense in so many ways, offering Americans underwhelming candidates that barely move the needle and parties that leave voters with little faith in the future.
No wonder Americans are disillusioned with government and polarization is felt system- and nation-wide. In a country that broadly supports term limits for Congress (87% support, according to the present survey), age limits for federal elected officials (79%) and Supreme Court justices (74%), and limits on the amount of money that can be spent on political campaigns (72%), we have nothing of those sorts.
No wonder people choose words like “divisive” and “corrupt” to describe the American political system, when strong majorities believe large campaign donors (80%) and lobbyists (73%) have too much influence on decisions made by Congress, but little faith anything will actually be done about it.
What happens come Election Day 2024 obviously remains to be seen, and I won’t waste time here giving my prediction about the outcome. What I will say is that Americans’ belief in our political system is clearly hurting, and none of us know what that looks like when it reaches its breaking point.
Microplastics Are Present in Clouds
A new study by researchers at Waseda University in Japan discovered microplastics in cloud water gathered at the peaks of Mount Fuji (pictured above) and Mount Oyama, identifying nine types of polymers and one type of rubber in airborne microplastics ranging in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometers.
The researchers say the abundance of microplastics suggests they’ve become an “essential component” of clouds, potentially contaminating everything we eat and drink via “plastic rainfall.” Microplastics in the atmosphere come from a variety of sources, including road dust, landfills, artificial grasses, and sea spray.
“Microplastics in the free troposphere are transported and contribute to global pollution,” said lead author Hiroshi Okochi. “If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future.”
Antimatter Is Pulled Down by Gravity, Just Like Normal Matter
A new study by an international team of researchers at CERN in Switzerland found antimatter is pulled downward by gravity just like regular matter, ruling out gravitational repulsion as the reason antimatter is missing from the observable universe and dashing sci-fi hopes that it could one day lead to antigravity technology.
The study found the gravitational acceleration of antimatter comes close to that of normal matter on Earth, fitting within about 25% (one standard deviation) of normal gravity.
“It surely accelerates downwards, and it's within about one standard deviation of accelerating at the normal rate,” said study author Joel Fajans. “The bottom line is that there's no free lunch, and we're not going to be able to levitate using antimatter.”
Earth’s Next Supercontinent Will Likely Kill All Mammals in 250 Million Years
A new study by researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. found the formation of the most probable next supercontinent – called Pangaea Ultima – in some 250 million years will end all mammalian life on Earth by “dramatically” increasing climate extremes, including bringing on “unprecedented heat.”
The study used what the researchers describe as the “first-ever supercomputer climate models” to examine the heat tolerance of mammals on Earth alongside the climactic changes that will occur as Pangaea Ultima forms, including intensifying heat and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“A supercontinent seemingly creates conditions that more easily lead to mass extinction,” said lead author Alexander Farnsworth. “[Supercontinent formation] has coincided with four of the last five mass extinctions in the geologic past.”
$15.4 billion - How much more women spend on health care costs each year compared to men, according to a new report by Deloitte. The report found women experience disproportionately high out-of-pocket medical expenses compared to men, even excluding pregnancy-related services.
65% - The percentage of U.S. adults who say the president should be elected by popular vote rather than the Electoral College, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey found 82% of Democrats and 47% of Republicans support moving to a popular vote for the presidency.
9.2% - The percentage of British 16 to 24 year olds who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), according to a new report from the U.K. Office for National Statistics. The report found 10.6% of females aged 16 to 24 years identify as LGB, more than doubling the proportion from 2017 (4.8%). Overall, an estimated 3.3% of Britons aged 16 and older identify as LGB, up from 2.1% in 2017.
23,290 - The estimated number of rhinos across Africa in 2022, according to new data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The figure includes 6,487 black rhinos, up 4.2% from 2021, and 16,803 white rhinos, up 5.6%. The estimates mark the first measured increase in white rhino populations since 2012.
Long Video. Can scientists actually reverse aging? (16 min)
Short Video. Learn why spherical houses aren’t a great idea. (4 min)
Fun Video. Step inside this futuristic home featuring detachable rooms. (12 min)
Good Read. What would actually signal life on another planet? (1,373 words; 7 min)
Neat List. See the 42 new sites UNESCO just added to its World Heritage List.
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Written by Ryan Wittler