WASHINGTON -- As Americans confront the final decade of the 20th century, antipathy toward their political system is on the rise, making it increasingly difficult for either political party to muster a governing majority.
That is the central finding of a new Times Mirror survey of political loyalties and beliefs. The poll results indicate that both parties are close to parity, with only 5 percent more people identifying themselves as Democrats than the number who say that they are Republicans. But the category "none of the above" is well out in front of both major parties.
Cynicism and mistrust toward public officials is also demonstrated by the 30 percent who "completely agree" with the statement that "elected officials in Washington lose touch with the people pretty quickly."
Underlying the negativism at home is growing unease about the economy -- 55 percent surveyed think that the country is in a recession -- which is feeding voter cynicism toward both parties in anticipation of harder times to come. These bleak feelings are concentrated among Americans earning less than $50,000 annually, who make up 85 percent of the voting-age population.
Thirty-six percent think that hard work offers little guarantee of success, compared with 29 percent in 1987. And 38 percent think that it is generally true that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, compared with 31 percent in 1987.
A majority -- 57 percent -- say that people like themselves have no say in government, compared with 52 percent in 1987.
These results were drawn from 3,000 personal interviews conducted last May nationwide -- two or three times the sample size of most national surveys. Some 1,000 respondents were reinterviewed over the phone last month, after the Middle East crisis erupted.