Michael Hansen, age 45, is not alone in thinking that national politics has become "almost like a slow motion car wreck." Every week brings another seeming crisis from Washington D.C.—the congressional showdown over the continuation of funding for the Homeland Security Department was just the latest. It's enough to turn off ordinary Americans from the down-to-the-wire negotiations and theatrics.
"After 10 years of paying attention to politics, I just prefer state and local government," says Hansen, an independent voter who works in food sales and lives in Idaho, just outside of Sun Valley. "I think local and state politicians actually listen more. They have to live within the same rules that they create."
The most recent results of the 22nd Heartland Monitor poll, sponsored by Alllstate and National Journal, bear out Hansen's assessment of who is best suited to lead the U.S. Years of federal gridlock and dysfunction have left the public favoring state and local institutions over the federal government as the places best equipped to offer solutions to the country's ongoing economic and social challenges.
And federal government? Well, it just leaves people wanting more, according to the polling data. Of the 1,000 American adults surveyed, just 26 percent said that national-level institutions were making progress, compared to the 64 percent who favored the state and local levels. This conclusion cuts across the lines of gender, education, socioeconomics, and even different regions of the country. In short, Americans are fed up with the sniping and paralysis at the federal level and instead are turning their attention to local governments and groups for solutions.