Gallup: Americans feel very positive about government

posted at 12:45 pm on October 3, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

You may be hearing that Americans have a record-low opinion of government.  Don’t believe that for a second!  Gallup informs us that Americans still have trust in confidence in government — at least the level of government they could most impact themselves:

Two-thirds of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in their local governments to handle local problems, and a solid majority feel the same way about their state government.

Confidence in state government matched confidence in local government as recently as 2008; however, the former fell sharply in 2009 as statehouses across the country began to grapple with major budgetary problems, and it has yet to fully recover.

Still, Americans remain more confident in state and local government than in the two policymaking branches of the federal government, according to findings from the Sept. 8-11 update of Gallup’s annual Governance poll.

Currently, less than a third of Americans have solid confidence in the legislative branch, with just 5% saying they have a great deal of confidence in it. Overall confidence in the executive branch is also muted, at 47%.

Ahem.  That last paragraph is deliberately misleading, as it compares the “great deal” response for the legislature to the combined “great deal/fair amount” responses for the executive.  The actual comparison is 5% to 17%, or 31% to 47%. And actually, except for the legislature, the “great deal” numbers are all similar — 19% for local government, 15% for state government, and 17% for the federal executive branch.  The actual difference is in the “fair amount” category, where the federal executive and legislative branches get 30% and 26%, respectively.  The legislature gets a whopping 50% in the “not very much” response, far higher than any other level.

Why? The wisdom of the American political system, at least at its inception, is that it created a tiered structure for government.  Local governments had the most involvement in regulation, with limitations from the sovereign state governments.  Those then created a limited amount of authority to the federal government to address issues that the states could not do alone.  The key to this is the ability of free people to govern themselves and influence the behavior of the governing class.  That’s strongest at the local level, somewhat less so at the state level, and much less so now at the federal level, where most of the governing class occupy bureaucracies rather than elected officials that are directly accountable to the voters.

So why is Congress so much less trusted than the President?  All voters cast ballots for the President, who is therefore accountable to everyone.  In contrast, a voter can only directly impact three members of Congress with a vote: his Representative in the House, and the two Senators that represent his state.  That is a big reason that Congressional job approvals routinely run much lower than those of Presidents, as well as being the one branch that requires compromises to pass any kind of legislation.

This is what people miss about the Tea Party movement.  Critics dismiss it as nihilistic and/or anarchistic and accuse activists of “hating” government.  What conservatives and Tea Party activists want is power devolved back to states and local communities, where individual voters have much more influence, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned.  Americans don’t hate government; they love self-government rather than bureaucratic rule, and find it much more efficient and less costly in the long run.

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Ed Morrissey, subversive blog poster and internet talk show host, will have his choco ration cut by 75% for the remainder of the year.

BobMbx on October 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Gallup is to polling as Associated Press American Pravda is to journalism.

suspect.

PappyD61 on October 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Ed Morrissey, subversive blog poster and internet talk show host, will have his choco ration cut by 75% for the remainder of the year.

BobMbx on October 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Well, that’s probably a good thing, anyway …

Ed Morrissey on October 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM

I have about as much confidence in government as I do in a rattlesnake.

At least you have a chance to see a snake in the grass.

Speakup on October 3, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Ed – maybe that should be:

Gallup: Americans feel very positive about (State & Local) government.

Chip on October 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Countdown to the 0bama Regime putting Ed on the Terrorist Assassination List had begun … /sarc

DannoJyd on October 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Currently, less than a third of Americans have solid confidence in the legislative branch, with just 5% saying they have a great deal of confidence in it.

What the heck kind of metric is that? No matter which side you’re on, at least half of the legislative branch is controlled by people you despise. I’m shocked it got as much as 5% confidence.

Fabozz on October 3, 2011 at 12:55 PM

5% to 17%, or 31% to 47%… 15% … 17%… 30% and 26%… 50%

I’ll be outside having a cigarette if anyone needs me…

/

Seven Percent Solution on October 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM

What conservatives and Tea Party activists want is power devolved back to states and local communities, where individual voters have much more influence, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned.

Must be one of those nihilistic anarchists. The framers clearly intended for the Federal Government to have complete command and control of its subjects via the commerce clause.

forest on October 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Gallup is to polling as Associated Press American Pravda is to journalism.

suspect.

PappyD61 on October 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Sadly, Gallup used to be the Gold Standard in the US (and even worldwide) for public opinion polling, going all the way back to their founding during the Depression.

What happened to them? Simple-they entered a partnership with CNN. Forever tainted.

Del Dolemonte on October 3, 2011 at 12:59 PM

“The key to this is the ability of free people to govern themselves and influence the behavior of the governing class…”

I see you haven’t been to California in quite some time…

Seven Percent Solution on October 3, 2011 at 1:00 PM

I feel that this post is fairly nebulous and I have a great deal of confidence that it misdirects any truth that the federal government isn’t anything but a bloated bureaucracy.

Or something.

kirkill on October 3, 2011 at 1:01 PM

ALL IS WELL!

CynicalOptimist on October 3, 2011 at 1:03 PM

You forgot to read the small print. “Those polled were found living under a rock”.

milwife88 on October 3, 2011 at 1:04 PM

For many, Government is their religion. It will save them, take care of them, protect them, pay them…

albill on October 3, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Ed,

You don’t happen to have more than $100 million, do you?

*Dulls sharp head chopping axe*

NotCoach on October 3, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Americans don’t hate government; they love self-government rather than bureaucratic rule…

Now that is an excellent point. Well stated. Concise. Easy to grasp. I’m not a bumper sticker kind of guy, but that would make an excellent bumper sticker.

Harrell on October 3, 2011 at 1:15 PM

I feel good about the US House…

The US Senate and the White House… not so much…

Khun Joe on October 3, 2011 at 1:47 PM

I live in Illinois and that speaks volumes.

Amjean on October 3, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Americans don’t hate government; they love self-government rather than bureaucratic rule…

Ed Morrisey

Now that is an excellent point. Well stated. Concise. Easy to grasp. I’m not a bumper sticker kind of guy, but that would make an excellent bumper sticker.

Harrell on October 3, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Yes it would, but the message is long enough to require a sticker the size of pickup truck or SUV tailgate for easy reading.

Great message though, Ed.

listens2glenn on October 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM

I am enjoying watching these polls all over the place. It means that people are lying a lot on polls. I want more and more people to lie on polls so that we can actually start to see what these losers think in debates and in speeches.

jeffn21 on October 3, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Gallup: Americans feel

touchy feelee PC

maverick muse on October 3, 2011 at 2:44 PM

The House would do an excellent job by themselves. With all the (help) they get from the Senate and White House about all they can accomplish is to block the “really bad” stuff.

duff65 on October 3, 2011 at 3:25 PM

My ass!

gdonovan on October 3, 2011 at 4:19 PM

I’ll bet the pollsters stayed away from NY State. This gives me good reason to ignore these polls.

mixplix on October 3, 2011 at 8:57 PM