According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 31 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. Another poll noted that 77 percent of Americans say the nation would be better off if leaders followed public opinion more closely.
In terms of what side of the table you're on, the data still holds true. For instance, Gallup also reported that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the nation would be better off if leaders listened more to the people. However, the differences are not large (81 vs. 73 percent, respectively).
While many Americans may be upset with the state of our nation, it's important to remember that it doesn't have to stay this way. You can make a difference and your voice can be heard. Here are a few ways to do it:
Start an online petition
Spreading the word has never been easier than creating an online petition, such as the ones on Change.org and the White House website. For example, recent online petitions that garnered success were about giving healthcare to firefighters who battle wildfires and halting the distribution of "pink slime" from the USDA to public schools, both of which received recognition from leaders.
Why this works: Starting petitions can help you reach a wide-range of audiences in an easy and convenient way. In addition, bringing awareness to issues such as healthcare and the diets of school children can give people access to issues they were not aware of previously.
Lastly, online petitions do something other methods cannot: bridge the gap between government officials and their constituents. In other words, bring the issues people care most about to the desks of those who can do something about it.
Take a survey
The surveys of today aren't like the ones of the past. Particularly when they are in-depth and get to the core of an issue, surveys can illustrate to officials what the people really want. For example, in-depth surveys that address issues such as climate change or renewable energy can thoroughly investigate the needs of the people, instead of only getting a general opinion.
Why this works: Unlike petitions, which can be quite black and white, surveys can show representatives a wide array of opinions, helping them come to a better understanding of what people want, as well as letting them craft a solution that satisfies more people. In addition, if members of the public change their minds about an issue, they can easily adjust their answers. This way, representatives always have the latest data and the public can truly hold them accountable for their actions.
Join a group
Joining a group that stands for a particular cause is one of the most empowering things a citizen can do. Working with a group of like-minded individuals can produce powerful synergy, and often it can quickly produce results.
In addition, joining a group may be the only way to see the severity of a situation because irresponsibility is no longer hidden behind a computer or being taken care of by someone else. When it comes down to it, the outcome of the cause may be reliant on the efforts of you and the people around you.
Why this works: From planning, to grassroots efforts, to seeing the rewards, joining a group such as Habitat for Humanity or The Nature Conservancy puts you on the front line of the cause, which can give heightened insight into the issue. Plus, should your group create long-lasting change, you may be hugely impacting people's lives.
For example, Habitat for Humanity has been creating sustainable housing for those in need for more than 30 years. One of their main objectives is to work with governmental entities in order to increase support for affordable home ownership and also to eliminate poverty housing. This creates a relationship between the group and those behind the cause, which has dual benefits.
First, no matter if you're working with your hands or calling people up, groups like Habitat for Humanity are particularly gratifying since your work can pave the way for real results. Second, creating results thereby strengthens the bond with legislators because they can see what can happen when they give their support to a cause. These create sustainability and awareness for the group.
In the end, the only way to change our satisfaction levels is to do something about issues. Only then we will make our voices known, influence politicians, and see real results.
What do you think? What are some other ways your voice can be heard?
Rand Strauss is the President and CEO of PeopleCount.org, a nonpartisan organization that enables the public to communicate constructively by taking stands on political issues influencing the country today. Connect with Rand and PeopleCount.org on Twitter and Facebook.