Pew: Trust in government reaching new low

posted at 8:48 am on April 19, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Pew Research has published a new survey of American attitudes towards government and “partisan rancor,” and the results don’t hold much promise for big-government politicians.  Instead of finding Hope and Change in the expansion of government, more and more Americans want reform of the federal bureaucracy and its power and authority reduced, not expanded.  The number of people who say they trust the government dropped to its lowest point in fifty years:

By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days. A new Pew Research Center survey finds a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government — a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.

Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems — including more government control over the economy — than there was when Barack Obama first took office. …

These are the principal findings from a series of surveys that provide a detailed picture of the public’s opinions about government. The main survey, conducted March 11-21 among 2,505 adults, was informed by surveys in 1997 and 1998 that explored many of the same questions and issues. While a majority also distrusted the federal government in those surveys, criticism of government had declined from earlier in the decade. And the public’s desire for government services and activism was holding steady.

This is not the case today. Just 22% say they can trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time, among the lowest measures in half a century. About the same percentage (19%) says they are “basically content” with the federal government, which is largely unchanged from 2006 and 2007, but lower than a decade ago.

Opinions about elected officials are particularly poor. In a follow-up survey in early April, just 25% expressed a favorable opinion of Congress, which was virtually unchanged from March (26%), prior to passage of the health care reform bill. This is the lowest favorable rating for Congress in a quarter century of Pew Research Center surveys. Over the last year, favorable opinions of Congress have declined by half — from 50% to 25%.

The list of declining ratings for federal agencies is broad, but in one case, surprising.  The Department of Education leads the list of losers, dropping 21 points in approval over the last 12 years, with only 40% now approving.  However, even though many of these bureaucracies lost significant support since late 1997, most of them still have majorities of approval, with the exception of the Social Security Administration, which dropped 13 points to 48%.  The IRS actually gained nine points, but still falls short of a majority at 47% approval.

With that in mind, Americans seem to disapprove of government on general and philosophical bases rather than in the context of specific agencies.  Twelve years ago, Pew found that 50% of respondents felt that the federal government made a positive impact on daily life, with 31% saying the impact on daily life was negative.  Today, that has reversed to 38% positive and 43% negative, a 24-point swing.  For those who see government going off the rails, 50% blame inefficiency, but an increasing percentage — 38%, up from 29% in 1997 — say it’s because of having wrong priorities.

In another interesting trend, the percentage of people who describe themselves as “frustrated” has remained basically unchanged since 1997, moving between 52% and 58% over that period and landing at 56% this year.  (In a survey taken right after 9/11, the numbers were far off from the norm at 34%, understandably.)  Those expressing basic contentment, though, have dropped from a 12-year peak in February 2000 of 33% to just 19% today.  Twenty-one percent now describe themselves as “angry,” a new high.  Combining “frustrated” with “angry” gives us 77% of Americans who are fed up with government, a new high for the last 12 years.

Needless to say, this trend bodes ill for any incumbent who supported the radical Democratic agenda of nanny-state policies this session of Congress, especially ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.  It also explains the rise of the Tea Parties and the fear of Democrats heading into the midterms.


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How will they blame Bush this time? They WILL try.

RobCon on April 19, 2010 at 8:51 AM

It’s all Bush’s fault. He’s the reason people don’t like government anymore.

Doughboy on April 19, 2010 at 8:51 AM

It is not so much whether the American people have trust in their government as it is whether the government has trust in the American people.

Dear Liar, His administration, the Fascist Democrats and the Left in general do not trust the people.

I do.

rbj on April 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Obama INHERITED THIS FAILED PRESIDENCY from Bush!
He’ll make it successful in his next term!

Cybergeezer on April 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Twenty-one percent now describe themselves as “angry,” a new high. Combining “frustrated” with “angry” gives us 77% of Americans who are fed up with government, a new high for the last 12 years.

Uh-oh. That’s a lot of potential domestic terrorists./

Disturb the Universe on April 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

The only thing that can reverse this distrust is more big government! /s

trs on April 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Obviously the problem is that government is too small and tax rates too low. All we need is still bigger and more powerful government and even higher taxes and I’m sure people would then trust the government more and suddenly think politicians were more responsible. Right?

jwolf on April 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM

With that in mind, Americans seem to disapprove of government on general and philosophical bases rather than in the context of specific agencies.

Americans attitudes prove to be surprisingly American.

Disturb the Universe on April 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM

I hope the DHS does not get it’s hands on this report. There could be trouble a-brewing in America with all of those angry, bitter, clingy people a-hating the government.

Johnnyreb on April 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM

…there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems…than there was when Barack Obama first took office…

Obviously, then, it’s racism at work. /sarc

Liam on April 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Well gee, when this clown Obama goes out and plays his 32 round of golf since he became POTUS, instead of attending the funeral of the President of Poland, thus peeving off the Polish communities in every city in the country here, as well as over there, yeah, I guess you could say my trust in this current government is pretty low. Like nill.

pilamaye on April 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Just 22% say they can trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time

It stands to reason, then, that roughly 80% of the country want to blow up federal buildings. – Bill Clinton

Weight of Glory on April 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM

The Department of Education leads the list of losers, dropping 21 points in approval over the last 12 years, with only 40% now approving.

40%=the teacher unions

cmsinaz on April 19, 2010 at 9:03 AM

It stands to reason, then, that roughly 80% of the country want to blow up federal buildings. – Bill Clinton

Weight of Glory on April 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM

+1

cmsinaz on April 19, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Once everyone gets their Unicorn everything will be okey dokey.

roflmao

donabernathy on April 19, 2010 at 9:05 AM

the lowest point in 50 years…you would think dear leader would get a clue…

all he can do is blame his opponents, he can do no wrong…

cmsinaz on April 19, 2010 at 9:05 AM

This is fine with me. You should never trust your government, no matter who is in power.

rollthedice on April 19, 2010 at 9:06 AM

It’s amazing to think that when the numbers of distrust towards D.C. is so high, nearly every single “answer” to “move forward” involves the federal government taking more control of something. Healthcare, big banks, small banks, financial reform, car companies, energy regulation, land use, education etc. Like I said yesterday, it’s like putting cannibals in charge of Jewish dietary laws. What could go wrong.

Weight of Glory on April 19, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Today, many fewer Democrats say they trust government than did so during the later Clinton years. And just 40% of Democrats have a favorable impression of the Democratic Congress — the lowest positive rating for Congress ever among members of the majority party.

Where did all the hope go?

Disturb the Universe on April 19, 2010 at 9:10 AM

80% of this country are deeply, deeply troubled.

They are dangerous and need to be careful.

Clinton/

artist on April 19, 2010 at 9:12 AM

Well gee, when this clown Obama goes out and plays his 32 round of golf since he became POTUS, instead of attending the funeral of the President of Poland, thus peeving off the Polish communities in every city in the country here, as well as over there, yeah, I guess you could say my trust in this current government is pretty low. Like nill.
pilamaye on April 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM

He has an excuse for not attending the funeral, but stabbing Poland in the back on missile defense is inexcusable and disgraceful.

Buy Danish on April 19, 2010 at 9:13 AM

80% of Americans are teabagging racists.

/Obamacrats

Good Lt on April 19, 2010 at 9:15 AM

He has an excuse for not attending the funeral, but stabbing Poland in the back on missile defense is inexcusable and disgraceful.

Buy Danish on April 19, 2010 at 9:13 AM

He could have gone to the Polish Embassy, but he didn’t. No, he’s pretty much a loser.

ladyingray on April 19, 2010 at 9:16 AM

a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government — a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.

and, most importantly, the regime ruling against the will of the people while smearing constituents as violent racist idiots who may be inclined toward domestic terrorism.

forest on April 19, 2010 at 9:22 AM

The public didn’t trust the Woodstock generation in the 60′s and have now realized they are running the country and that distrust is back.The majority doesn’t care for that mindset.That bunch(my generation)is running the country into the ground and must be stopped.

docflash on April 19, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Fascinating… 3 years ago every media outlet would be talking about how Bush did this and everyone hates Bush…

Now it’s… “big government” and media doesn’t understand why people are distrustful of this “big government” ideology that has no bearing in reality…

Skywise on April 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM

maybe a few years ago some of us here would have said “well, I trust one or two Congressman who are overseeing that particular area”. but after the corruption surrounding the passage of Obamacare, I’m beginning to wonder if there remains anyone in Congress that can objectively & honestly oversee anything.

kelley in virginia on April 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM

It stands to reason, then, that roughly 80% of the country want to blow up federal buildings. – Bill Clinton

Weight of Glory on April 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Exactly. Roughly 80% of Americans are domestic terrorists.

petefrt on April 19, 2010 at 9:26 AM

I have NO trust in government. I have immense trust in God and my fellow Americans.

UnderstandingisPower on April 19, 2010 at 9:29 AM

all he can do is blame his opponents, he can do no wrong…

cmsinaz on April 19, 2010 at 9:05 AM

The results of deeply felt humility.

Yoop on April 19, 2010 at 9:31 AM

In the last fifty years? That would go back to 1960, meaning even lower than the Nixon years or Carter malaise? Wow!

Special K on April 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM

It would be hard to find a good reason to trust a government that has taken away more liberties, freedoms, and individual rights in one short year than at any time in our history. Free markets and capitalism has been replaced or circumvented under the guise of protectionism. The over-zealous policies of this current liberal government are plunging this nation into restrictive debt that is neither sustainable nor approved by a majority of the populace. Our only redress of grievences is limited to the voting booth, and yet much of the permanent damage may take a generation to repair.

Trust? The “new direction” and “hope and change” has been nothing short of fiscal ruin, followed by a large dose of invasion of privacy.

This is not the government our founding fathers invisioned. If fact, they specifically wrote constitutional law, (that every political official swears to protect and uphold), warning citizens of the perils of an unchecked government. Limited power must be restored.

Rovin on April 19, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Special K on April 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Time for the “Miss me, yet?” billboard to have Nixon’s image.

Disturb the Universe on April 19, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Rovin on April 19, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Ditto’s to all of that!

Keemo on April 19, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Uh-oh. That’s a lot of potential domestic terrorists./

Disturb the Universe on April 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

BTW, am I the only one who thinks that Secretary Napolitano will say something outrageous in her remarks today in Oklahoma at the memorial ceremony for the victims of the Murrah Building bombing?

turfmann on April 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM

Breaking news: America is center-right nation — Sees socialism/statism as unAmerican

petefrt on April 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM

One of these polling agencies should poll the people with the same question substituting MSM for government.

Little dose of reality for those 90% white networks that are nothing other than a propaganda tool for the Progressives.

Keemo on April 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM

November is looking better & better…

PatriotRider on April 19, 2010 at 9:42 AM

The Chicago way circle express more trust for Muslims than they do patriotic Americans.

seven on April 19, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Once everyone gets their Unicorn everything will be okey dokey.

roflmao

donabernathy on April 19, 2010

I got my unicorn the other day. It doesn’t move and it smells funny.

SKYFOX on April 19, 2010 at 9:52 AM

It’s all Bush’s fault. He’s the reason people don’t like government anymore.

Doughboy on April 19, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Indirectly, there is a point to that argument. All the people trusting government now spent the Bush years screaming how the government they supposedly trust now had 3000 citizens murdered for oil when that other party was in charge.

The lesson to take away is that government in general is not to be trusted with anything but Constitutionally-limited power. No matter who is in charge.

Sekhmet on April 19, 2010 at 10:02 AM

I have as much trust in the U.S. Government as the American Indians do.

I’m trying to work up enthusiasm for living on Health Reservations.

Ampleforth on April 19, 2010 at 10:02 AM

78% don’t trust the government; 22% are just plain dense.

michaelo on April 19, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Bush does have a little culpability for the trend of less trust. He took the Republican party and helped make it almost Democrat-lite. His spending and encroachment on some liberties was straight out of the Democrat playbook. I never understood why he did it, but his actions really showed that both parties are capable of giving the country the middle finger.

search4truth on April 19, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Time for the “Miss me, yet?” billboard to have Nixon’s image.

Improved:
Billboard of Lenin with Obama button. “Apparently you missed me!”

R Square on April 19, 2010 at 10:07 AM

That’s because Americans don’t understand the good that this administration has done for them.
/s

The sad thing about these tumbling poll numbers is that Mr. President and Congress could care less. They’ve proven over and over they are not a government for the people. They’re “amused” by the protesters and the look down their nose at constituents.

scalleywag on April 19, 2010 at 10:07 AM

He could have gone to the Polish Embassy, but he didn’t. No, he’s pretty much a loser.
ladyingray on April 19, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Didn’t think of that. You’re right – he decided to play golf instead:

Mr. Obama has not traveled to the Polish Embassy in Washington since the accident, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. both have visited the Polish Embassy in Washington since the accident and signed a condolence book.

This is worse than an “Obamateurism”.

Buy Danish on April 19, 2010 at 10:09 AM

He could have gone to the Polish Embassy, but he didn’t. No, he’s pretty much a loser.

ladyingray on April 19, 2010 at 9:16 AM

A trip to Chigago could have worked too. The Won is insensitive scum.

katy the mean old lady on April 19, 2010 at 10:12 AM

The Libs thought 52% was a mandate. They are finding out that it was not.

kingsjester on April 19, 2010 at 10:16 AM

78% don’t trust the government; 22% are just plain dense.

michaelo on April 19, 2010 at 10:05 AM

My liberal ultra dense friend thinks that we are headed for civil insurrection. When someone this clueless says this, I’m worried. Not a dummy,college degree business owner. Just too busy trying to stay afloat to stay informed.

katy the mean old lady on April 19, 2010 at 10:17 AM

katy the mean old lady on April 19, 2010 at 10:17 AM

Even the Liberals are starting tro realize that Americans are angry. That’s why Bubba kind of retreated from his statement about the Tea Partiers after Rush called him on it.

kingsjester on April 19, 2010 at 10:21 AM

If you drop by the Kennedy School at Harvard, you will find them mucking about with public speaking techniques and other nonsense to advocate a solidly left agenda.

We peons just need to be convinced!

It is like MIT forgetting the testing and analysis aspects of engineering and instead having their little darlings learn better ways to convince people that they really NEED screen doors on submarines.

IlikedAUH2O on April 19, 2010 at 10:37 AM

I can’t understand the lack of popularity. Just because every action that comes out of the Federal government lately is preceded by the phrase BOHICA, doesn’t mean that they’re really out to bend us ov….

Never mind.

karl9000 on April 19, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Once everyone gets their Unicorn everything will be okey doNkey.roflmaodonabernathy on April 19, 2010 at 9:05 AM

FIFY.

Steve Z on April 19, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Pew: Trust in government reaching new low

Another Clueless in America moment. It took a poll to figure this out.

chemman on April 19, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Buy Danish on April 19, 2010 at 9:13 AM

Are the runways on our military bases in Spain or Italy shut? If not AF 1 could have flown a longer route to them and then he could have taken surface transportation to Poland. Time consuming yes but it could have been done. He is a Classless act.

chemman on April 19, 2010 at 11:23 AM

The IRS actually gained nine points, but still falls short of a majority at 47% approval.

For right now, the Bush tax cuts are still in effect, and 47% of adults don’t pay income taxes, so those who don’t have to deal with the IRS approve of them.

Wait ’til next year, when the Bush tax cuts expire and the IRS starts fining people for not buying health insurance. The IRS would be lucky to get into the 30′s.

Steve Z on April 19, 2010 at 11:24 AM

One of these polling agencies should poll the people with the same question substituting MSM for government.

Little dose of reality for those 90% white networks that are nothing other than a propaganda tool for the Progressives.

Keemo on April 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM

When they do these polls they should find a way to screen for those that only get their info from the MSM. Or even better, have two seperate sets of results.
If the whole truth about the overreaching by these radicals wasn’t being covered up by the MSM, the numbers would be scary, which would reflect a correspondingly angrier tone of dissent.

ontherocks on April 19, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Needless to say, this trend bodes ill for any incumbent who supported the radical Democratic agenda of nanny-state policies this session of Congress, especially ObamaCare and cap-and-trade. It also explains the rise of the Tea Parties and the fear of Democrats heading into the midterms.

Could E.J. Dione possibly comprehend this? Or is he stuck in “racism” and “wealthy” in the tea parties…luckily for us dismissing all. I love it when lefties are delusional.

Schadenfreude on April 19, 2010 at 12:13 PM

It’s all Bush’s fault. He’s the reason people don’t like government anymore.

Doughboy on April 19, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Geithner said yesterday that the deficits are all Bush’s fault. I’m wondering how the volcano in Iceland is his fault too…

Schadenfreude on April 19, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Nonetheless, antigovernment sentiment appears to be a more significant driver of possible turnout among Republicans and independents than among Democrats. Perhaps most troubling for Democrats, independent voters who are highly frustrated with government are also highly committed to casting a ballot this year, and they favor the Republican candidates in their districts by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin.

Schadenfreude on April 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM

77% frustrated or angry with government: change I can believe in!

ajacksonian on April 19, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Could E.J. Dione possibly comprehend this? Or is he stuck in “racism” and “wealthy” in the tea parties…luckily for us dismissing all. I love it when lefties are delusional.

Schadenfreude on April 19, 2010 at 12:13 PM

The leftist media are confusing strategic talking points with the reality on the ground. The pols in DC do the same thing in their bubble, which is why Washington is the WORST location to govern from today.
Dione probably still thinks his “big lie” propaganda will become reality if he keeps rinsing and repeating.

ontherocks on April 19, 2010 at 12:35 PM

This is fine with me. You should never trust your government, no matter who is in power.

rollthedice on April 19, 2010 at 9:06 AM

I thought that was a given.

Gang-of-One on April 19, 2010 at 12:38 PM

I love it when lefties are delusional.

Schadenfreude on April 19, 2010 at 12:13 PM

That’s the only thing about these progressive agents of change that doesn’t.

ontherocks on April 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM

The Libs thought 52% was a mandate. They are finding out that it was not.

kingsjester on April 19, 2010 at 10:16 AM

2004: Bush wins 51% of the votes: “Bitterly divided country”

2008: O’bama wins 52% of the votes: “Hope and change and a clear mandate”

Del Dolemonte on April 19, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Are the runways on our military bases in Spain or Italy shut? If not AF 1 could have flown a longer route to them and then he could have taken surface transportation to Poland. Time consuming yes but it could have been done. He is a Classless act.

chemman on April 19, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Saw a hilarious Tweet from comedian John “Basil Fawlty” Cleese yesterday-he was in Norway and trying to get back to his home in England, but couldn’t fly. He ended up spending $5,000 for taxis to drive him from Oslo to Brussels, where he then got on the Eurostar train home.

Del Dolemonte on April 19, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Saw a hilarious Tweet from comedian John “Basil Fawlty” Cleese yesterday-he was in Norway and trying to get back to his home in England, but couldn’t fly. He ended up spending $5,000 for taxis to drive him from Oslo to Brussels, where he then got on the Eurostar train home.

Del Dolemonte on April 19, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Train service must be terrible too.

unclesmrgol on April 19, 2010 at 5:30 PM