State Policy Network
Polling Spotlight: Majority of Americans think 2024 Election Will Significantly Impact Their Life 

Erin Norman is the Lee Family Fellow and Senior Director of Communications Strategies at State Policy Network.

Although Washington, D.C. is far away for most Americans, more than half of voters believe the Presidential election will have the most impact on their day-to-day lives. According to new data from State Policy Network and Morning Consult, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) believe that who wins the Presidential election will matter “a great deal” to their day-to-day life. Comparatively, less than half think who wins local elections matters the same amount (47 percent). 

*Governor only asked in states where there is a 2024 election scheduled. A smaller sample size (n=238) creates a higher margin of error on this question. 

It’s curious that Americans would claim to feel so much of the impact of Washington in their daily lives. Local and state governments by design govern the ordinary aspects of daily life: they preside over nearly all civil legal procedures, create laws around driving, set the public-school calendar, govern marriage and child custody, impose water use restrictions, and maintain roads.  

The original purpose of the federal government was to handle issues that required communities to band together like national defense, immigration policy, monetary systems and the protection of constitutional rights—while the smaller details of governing were supposed to be left to the states. As the federal government takes on an increasing role in doing the job of state and local government—healthcare policy, education policy, and administrative rules that dictate how businesses run as some examples— voters are clearly seeing the impact on their lives. 

Voters Have the Least Amount of Trust in the Federal Government  

But that doesn’t mean they think it’s a good thing. Of the three levels of government tested, voters have the least trust in the federal government with just 18 percent trusting it “a great deal” or “completely.” In contrast, 23 percent trust state government and 27 percent trust local governments. Furthermore, two-thirds (66 percent) of voters think the federal government has too much control over our day-to-day lives with a majority of all political affiliations agreeing. 

Still, over half (57 percent) of Americans think a strong federal government, instead of strong local government, is the best way to solve our nation’s problems. Americans are looking to the federal government because they see it grabbing control and proposing sweeping, typically infeasible, solutions to big problems that are often purposefully made scarier by political talking points designed to win votes and bring in campaign dollars.

A Solution to an Overreaching Federal Government: Reengagement at the Local Level 

If Americans want to see less influence from Washington in their lives, they must reengage in the local communities that drive the policy which governs our daily routines. An SPN poll from December 2023 shows that while 80 percent believe that local participation is critical to maintaining the American system of government, just 13 percent have attended a public meeting in their community—and a similar number had volunteered at a community institution.  

As long as voters believe Washington, D.C. has the greatest impact on their daily lives, they will continue to look to it for solutions that would be better designed and implemented at the state and local level. Those levels of government must assert their authority to handle the policy they were designed to manage, and voters must reengage in that process. This is the path forward to meaningfully solving the challenges Americans face today. 

Organization: State Policy Network