Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Robert Hislope




government, democracy, approval, constitution, states


Could the Father of the Constitution have possibly known the state of his “child” 200 years down the road? Ask your typical American what he or she thinks of their government today. The answers “farce” or “tragedy” would not be big surprises. What else could you call a government—or, more specifically, a Congress—that currently has a 31% approval rating?1 Or, an even better question—what else could you call a government that, with a 31% approval rating, has reached its highest level of approval in two years?2 You could call it the American government; a government that many are happy to call a model of true democracy. Look at any United States history, government, or political science textbook that is being read by today’s high school and college students—it may very well say on the first page—“Sure, there are flaws in our government, but most people agree that the foundation for a democratic society was secured by the Constitution and later laws.”3 Another introductory level political science textbook simply states, “The framers of the Constitution . . . instituted representative democracy.”4 While, certainly, the degree of democracy for a given state can vary, the common notion that the United States is the world’s epitome of a democracy is a fundamental misconception.The purpose of this thesis is to address and seek answers to the questions posed above, namely: Where is the United States on the democracy continuum? What constitutes corruption in a democracy? Where are these impediments to substantive democracy occurring? And, why are so many Americans placing the blame of dysfunctional government on individuals and not the state? The opinions of scholars who have written on the topic of democracy in the United States will be considered as well as my own hypothesis: That, low approval ratings of Congress are predominantly due to the fact that the people who are rating Congress are not well-informed enough to accurately judge this branch of government.