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April 23, 2024

ABA survey: U.S. democracy is weaker today — and disinformation is to blame

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2024 — Democracy in the United States is weaker today than it was five years ago, and most people blame misinformation, disinformation and the political parties, according to a new national survey conducted for the American Bar Association.

The 2024 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy asked if democracy today is stronger or weaker than it was five years ago, who is mainly responsible for safeguarding our democracy and whether respondents are concerned about the upcoming November election. It also tested respondents’ knowledge of the U.S. government.

The survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The results are from a nationally representative survey of 1,000 respondents conducted in English and Spanish by telephone March 4-9, 2024, by DAPA Research on behalf of the ABA. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Among the survey’s findings:


A large majority — 74% — said U.S. democracy is weaker today than it was five years ago. Only 13% said it is stronger.

Among those who said our democracy is weaker, nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the primary cause is misinformation and disinformation. Nearly as many (29%) blamed the political parties. Less than 10% blamed social media or lack of civility.

The survey also asked who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding our democracy. More than a third (37%) said it is mainly the responsibility of the general public — yet half of all respondents (exactly 50%) said the general public is not very informed about how democracy works.

Only 25% said the judiciary is primarily responsible for safeguarding democracy, and 21% said it is up to public officials.


With the presidential election approaching, exactly half of all respondents (50%) said free and fair elections are the most important part of a democratic government, and many expressed strong opinions about how elections should be conducted.

More than half (55%) said they are concerned about the integrity of the November general election. Among those respondents, the biggest concern, expressed by more than a third (36%), was election subversion — meddling with the vote counting process. Roughly a quarter (23%) said their biggest concern was people voting more than once or ineligible people voting, and 1 in 10 (10%) said their biggest worry is the potential for violence.

Strong majorities expressed support for four election policies: requiring voter IDs (80%), allowing convicted felons to vote after serving their sentences (74%), early voting (73%) and absentee voting (71%).

Civic knowledge

The survey also asked 13 multiple-choice questions from the U.S. citizenship test to explore how well Americans understand their government. The results show most people have a good grasp of the fundamentals but with some notable gaps.

For example, most respondents understood the concepts of checks and balances, separation of powers and rule of law. Most also knew who would succeed the president and vice president if both could not serve.

But 21% thought that obeying the law is a responsibility only of U.S. citizens, and 20% believed that only citizens must pay federal income taxes. Asked about the First Amendment, 18% thought it does not include freedom of the press, and 23% thought that freedom of speech is only for citizens.

Also, while a majority (58%) knew that John Roberts is the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 20% thought it was Clarence Thomas. A majority (58%) did not know that the U.S. Constitution and authorized federal statutes and treaties are the supreme law of the land.

To see the complete 2024 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, click here.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.