February 22nd, 2010
10:30 AM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Three-fourths think federal officials not honest

As the United States marks its first president's birthday, a new poll indicates that 74 percent of the public thinks the father of our country did lie to the public while he served as president.
As the United States marks its first president's birthday, a new poll indicates that 74 percent of the public thinks the father of our country did lie to the public while he served as president.

Washington (CNN) - Folklore says that George Washington was known for never telling a lie. But as the United States marks its first president's birthday, a new poll indicates that 74 percent of the public thinks the father of our country did lie to the public while he served as president - an indication that Americans think that the government has been broken for a very, very long time.

The CNN/Opinion Corporation survey was released Monday, the 278th anniversary of Washington's birth.

Full results (pdf)

Three quarters of people questioned in the survey think that modern-day federal officials are not honest, a figure that is essentially unchanged since 1994. But the poll suggests that Americans think the problem of dishonesty is not a new one.

And it's not just George Washington. 71 percent think that Abraham Lincoln, known as "Honest Abe," also lied to the public while serving in the White House.

"It's all part of a rich tradition in American history - the belief that politicians are not always telling the truth," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

What should we make of the figures for Washington and Lincoln?

"Part of it may be the recognition that, however much we revere them today, both men were politicians, and Americans are always a little cynical about people seeking office. Part of it may also be a realistic assessment that the president sometimes has to keep things from the public," adds Holland. "But whether it's based on cynicism or realism, or a little of both, it's an indication that Americans think that our government has been broken for many, many years."

According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the government in this country is broken, but the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what's broken can be fixed.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN poll
soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Bruce

    Those without sin cast the first stone. Get my drift America? Everyhone tells little lies every now and again, no one, not even President's or any politician for that mattter is perfect. It just depends on to what extent and what harm (if any) it does to Americans. If it's for the betterment of Americans, no harm no foul.

    February 22, 2010 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  2. Larry

    We have the vote. Let's start voting the thieves and liars out of office.

    February 22, 2010 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  3. ryan

    After the previous administration , I would say that a simple lie can be extremely dangerous .
    For example ; Iraq was involved in 911 and Iraq has WMD's.

    How many Americans and Iraqi's have payed for these lie's with their own blood ?

    I hope you still enjoy life and your tasty bbq mr Cheney,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz & co .
    I do feel sorry for their gullible lap dog former pres Dubbya having to carry this legacy, the price you pay for being gullible .

    And I did not even talk about the economy they neglected yet.
    As I recall , early 2005 the housing market was already in deep trouble , and that was before democrats had a majority in congress.

    And the government became even bigger during the republicans term complaining how they want smaller government.

    People ( Tea party's and neo-con Repub's) have a right to feel mad , that's the price they pay for being gullible.

    February 22, 2010 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  4. Stephen in Bedford, TX

    We all will tell a lie in some form or the other. To say that politicians lie is not such a big deal. What have they lied about? Sex? Voting records? WMD's? About their opponent?

    I truly believe the tone is Washington, D.C. right now is the current group of Republicans fault. They have been fueled by cable news and the internet and they are more afraid of Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sarah Palin than they are of success. Liars always have an advantage because they have no shame.

    If the Republicans had the courage to make an honest effort to work with the administration they could and would accomplish a great deal.

    February 22, 2010 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  5. Shanti

    This is a rediculous "story." How many people even know enough history to make an educated guess on the honesty of earlier presidents. People, by nature, are often dishonest, but this story and the poll seem more directed at continuing to spread – and report – discontent. How about running stories about how to solve problems, rather than fan the flames?!

    February 22, 2010 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  6. Angus McDugan

    That's what happens when you try to make everyone happy and you have no other profession other than politics.

    February 22, 2010 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  7. lulu

    why does cnn have to bring down the great american president? especially on george washington's birthday. no mention of his birthday but non presidents brthdays are celebrated all day on cnn.

    February 22, 2010 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  8. Jane/Seattle

    While one must question every source, this reference from the book here that so many claim to believe is rather telling: Poverbs 26:28
    "A lying tongue hatesth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin"!

    There are many wise sources to understand what is being done to America. Naomi Klein, Don Miguel Ruiz, Naomi Wolf and Thom Hartmann readily come to mind. Check them out if you will. Peace

    February 22, 2010 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  9. Squigman

    What planet are the other 25% from.

    February 22, 2010 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  10. dale

    Can anyone honestly say they think our gov is honest?
    They have sold us out, they have sold our jobs out, all must go this Novem

    February 22, 2010 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  11. dale

    Media and money = corrupt government

    February 22, 2010 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  12. jules sand-perkins

    I believe two things.
    First, I believe that little George told the truth about the cherry tree. After that, I don't know: you can't be completely "open and honest" and win a war.
    Second, I believe that politicians usually tell the truth about how conservative or liberal they are. President Obama was an exception–never mind that. As for politicians' motivations for the evil or good they do, we'll never know the truth about that. Ayn Rand gives us some clues.

    February 22, 2010 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  13. TomInRochNY

    But, can we fix it in 2010?

    February 22, 2010 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  14. How to tell a Dem is lying-lips are moving

    Need I say more.

    February 22, 2010 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  15. tmart

    Just because we recognize that people lie doesn't lead to the belief that gov't is broken! Other things may lead to that belief like the Republican Party Of "NO". The author of this article is making false conclusions.

    February 22, 2010 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  16. Andy

    Remove all dems , the party of smoke / spin and lies and this # will plummet.

    February 22, 2010 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  17. Janice

    The % with Obamie,the Great One,the Mezziah and the Dumocraps is 100 % . ALL LIES ALL SPIN ALL SMOKE ALL DUMOCRAP

    February 22, 2010 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  18. El Gordo

    This is a silly story. If they had asked those people to list a few lies told by Washington and Lincoln, they would not have been able to name a single one.

    February 22, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  19. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Gosh what did you expect folks. You elect or are forced by your union to vote for a bunch of crooks from Chicago, the most corrupt big city in the country. Don't act suprised you get a bunch of crooks and corrupt politicians running the country.

    February 22, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  20. James Cunningham

    This is a totally dishonest story that reflects the total lack of historical knowledge of U.S. history and the character of Washington and Lincoln not only of the know nothing respondents, but also of Keating Holland. But then again, we knew that long ago as reflected in his biased polling techniques.

    February 22, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  21. Rod

    Just 3/4ths??? Well, I know for certain no one asked me for my vote. I don't trust them either. Please adjust your numbers...

    February 22, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  22. chris l

    I Love when CNN does stories like this. They realize that everyone knows what a complete fraud and liar OBOZO is, so they do a story like this to show that "even the most trusted presidents have lied." You guys are ridiculous. OBOZO will not get a pass. His presidency is already a complete failure and it has only been a year. LOL, Anyone with liberal ideology (aka The American Al Queda) will never hold power in this country again. Count On It

    February 22, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  23. Black Viper

    Until we the people force our law makers to PROHIBIT or Make LOBYING a CRIMINAL offense and do a serious campaign contribution reform this country will continue to dive into the hole.
    The problem is that campaign are very expensive to the point that instead of law makers doing the business of the people they are supposed to represent they are constantly looking for money for the next campaign and ready to sacrifice the people that elected them to promote the agenda of big corporations.
    Corporates are growing bigger and abusing consumers because they are able to kill competition by corrupting law makers living no other choice for the consumer.
    I just laugh when republican cry free market.
    There is only one party in america with Two wings (democrats and republican): CORPORATE AMERICA

    February 22, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  24. Lynn

    Just who are the pollsters and who do they call? In all my 70+ yrs., I nor anyone I know, has ever been polled. I'm more cynical of the polls than politicians, and that's saying a lot.

    February 22, 2010 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  25. Thank you Massachusetts

    When this country was being formed one of the "rich traditions" was to live by the commandments written in the Holy Bible. Now that those teachings have been left by the wayside for the foolishness of human "wisdom" we are reaping the consequences. Chances are if this same poll was conducted during either Washington's term or Lincoln"s more people would have trusted government leaders simply because the general public as a whole was more trustworthy.

    February 22, 2010 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
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