Large majorities of the public, Republicans and Democrats alike, say open and fair elections and a system of governmental checks and balances are essential to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States.
However, there is less consensus about the importance of other aspects of a strong democracy – notably, the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders.
The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults, finds that 89% say fair and open national elections are very important to maintaining a strong democracy, while 83% say the same about a system of checks and balances dividing power between the president, Congress and the courts.
As in past surveys, most also view the right to nonviolent protest (79%) and protecting the rights of those with unpopular views (74%) as very important components of a strong democracy. A smaller majority (64%) says the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders is essential to maintain a strong democracy in the U.S.
The sharpest partisan disagreement is over the importance of the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) say the freedom of the press to criticize politicians is very important to maintaining a strong democracy; only about half of Republicans (49%) say the same.
And where you stand depends on where you sit: