In the latest and final public opinion polls published by the New York Times/CBS News on Thursday ahead of the US elections on Tuesday, more than eight in 10 respondents claimed to be repulsed by the campaign. The majority also said they consider both of the leading candidates to be dishonest and hold an unfavorable general view of them.
Voter discontent with the political system and politicians is not restricted to the United States, however. It is fast becoming a global phenomenon.
In France, for example, President Francois Hollande has broken all precedent, with just 4 percent of respondents expressing their support in a recent poll. In Greece, 91 percent have said that they are not satisfied with the way that the government has been handling its affairs and 79 percent are also unhappy with the opposition and the job it is doing, according to a Public Issue poll.
Politicians in many parts of world are increasingly being described as incompetent, ineffective, unable to step up to the plate, corrupt and in other such endearing terms. The question is: Are politicians the scapegoats for the huge changes that are currently taking place around the world and with which people simply cannot reconcile themselves?
The harder daily life becomes for citizens, the higher unemployment soars, the more job insecurity grows and prospects for the future shrink, the more politicians start tapping into public sentiment, stoking grand nationalist ideas and voters’ dissatisfaction. The poor quality of politics is shaping a social environment defined by fatigue and negativity.
The New York Times rightly points out that in the US elections, “rising toxicity threatens the ultimate victor.” Who can really celebrate a win when the overall environment has become so poisonous?
In Greece, the number of people who believe that we need elections soon and those who see no need for another go at the polls is more or less evenly split at 50 and 48 percent, respectively. And in response to the question of who they would prefer to see running the country in the event that early elections were held – SYRIZA and Independent Greeks in a fresh coalition government or conservative New Democracy – 51 percent say neither.
So much ambiguity allows the rhetoric of both the extremist right and the left, and the anti-systemic trend to gain ground, with the center of the political spectrum looking more like a well-advertised concert that was canceled because ticket sales flopped.