September 14th, 2010
05:04 PM ET
8 years ago

CNN Poll: Only quarter of public trusts government

Washington (CNN) - A new poll indicates that only one in four Americans say they trust the government to do what is right always or most of the time, one explanation for the anti-incumbent sentiment in the country today.

According to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Tuesday, 25 percent of the public indicates that they trust the government in Washington to do what's is right most or all of the time, with 66 percent saying they trust the government to do what's right only some of the time and eight percent saying they never trust the government.

Full results [pdf]

"That lack of trust in government is not a recent phenomenon - except for a brief spike fueled by patriotism immediately after 9/11, a majority have not trusted the government since the early 1970s," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

But the recession appears to have made matters worse.

"Ten years ago, roughly four in ten said they trusted the government always or most of the time; that number dropped to the mid-to-low 30's in the middle part of the decade, but then dropped to the 20s in 2008, where it has stayed ever since. The all-time low in CNN polls was in the summer of 1994 - just before Newt Gingrich led the GOP to take control on Capitol Hill - when only 17 percent said they trusted the government most or all of the time," adds Holland.

The survey indicates a partisan divide, with Democrats expressing more trust in the government, but even among Democrats, only four in ten express that level of trust in government.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted September 1-2, with 1,024 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: CNN Polls
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. bj

    75% of the populations don't trust their mates, so go figure.

    September 14, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |

    A quarter, aren't you a little high CNN. I know of no one in my circle of friends that trusts Obama's administration and this is Democrats, Republicans, Independents. They do not trust this man who has done everything to change the White House to an Islam castle and the Constitution to destroy God. Who will that leave but his Quran and Muhammed. In other words not religeon at all. OH YEAH HE STILL HAS REV. WRIGHT'S, 'GOD D... AMERICA!"

    September 14, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. GOP Scorched Earth Politics

    So we should just vote for the Republicans to take back America so they can give it away to the highest Big $ Lobbyist bidder that golfs, smokes cigarettes and drinks vodka tonics with Orangeman Boehner every night.

    September 14, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. once upon a horse

    remember back in the day when mis-trust of the goverment was a far left pinko thing and the conservatives loathed it? I know I DO and now the GOPers are the ones with the mistrust the goverment..the one they helped run into the ditch. What goes around does come right back around.

    September 14, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. Sunshine

    Only a quarter. You have got to be joking. I haven't heard anyone trusts this governnment. I wish we would get rid of Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Dodd, Obama, Durbin, et al. None can be trusted.

    September 14, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. Dis-gusted

    Hey, isn't the "Government R Us?" If those we voted for are not making decisions that we approve of, we know what to do, don't we?

    September 14, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. Meka

    Government is fine . . . as long as we don't have REPUBLICANS, OR TEA PARTY INVOLVEMENT!!!

    September 14, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    Surprising that even one-quarter trusts the government. In this age of information, you should be fully aware of the fact that you cannot trust the government......not from the local to the federal level.

    The most recent local example.....the city wants to require a permit to have a garage sale, at your house. $25. permit fee. Nothing but a disguised tax, and so absolutely un-American. This for something where you might get a dollar or two per item. Totally wrong.

    September 14, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  9. REG in AZ

    Some justify voting for Republicans because the Democrats have been irresponsible in not quickly resolving the problems and they spend significant amounts of money and increase the deficit. Others justify voting for Democrats because the Republicans have been irresponsible with their history of focusing only on Special Interests and the select few, while putting their political ambitions above all else and just criticizing and obstructing all efforts and offering nothing real. Then there are those who just follow their biases, prejudices, emotional attachments and excessive self-interests and vote with a rationalized logic. It would really be nice to have a strong 3rd political party offering a centrist position honestly and responsibly favoring the majority but that isn’t available (and likely won’t ever be without the needed reform to get money out of politics). What is currently necessary is to have voters be rational and objective, being disciplined to see through all of the deceptive rhetoric, to avoid just being conned, and to come to logical decisions serving their best interests. What is desperately needed is representatives offering bipartisan cooperation to adjust and fine tune the solutions and without ever returning to ‘more of the same’ that got us all of the problems.

    Whether emotional Tea Partiers with their exaggerated self concerns or regular Republicans with their self-focused arrogance, there is no real help there and instead only subterfuge boldly and obnoxiously offered with the active substantial overt and covert support of those few who stand to once again gain from a return to ‘more of the same’. Consider the misleading criticisms offered and what the status would be if the Democrats had actually done nothing or worse, done ‘more of the same’, as were the only options pushed by the Republicans. Whatever anyone’s past history and biases may be it is important to see the reality and to recognize that Tea Partiers and standard Republicans alike advocate only a return to ‘more of the same’ that serves only Special Interests and a select few while giving the majority only apathy, the costs and an abundance of subterfuge. The proof that ‘more of the same’ is a loosing program for the majority is in seeing that only the powerful, influential and extremely wealthy constantly gain while the total middle-class continually looses ground and the poor are literally devastated. The only way to ever regain the Grand Ole Party, with their being conscientious and responsible to the majority, is to firmly and totally reject what they have become – ‘puppets’ for those few who ‘pull their strings’.

    The Democrats and Obama are far from perfect but right now they are the only hope for the average American. Yes, their solutions need to be fine tuned but they offer actual solutions and not just more disguised placating and patronizing of Special Interests and the select few. The people and those organizations representing the people (in contrast to the lobbyists for Special Interests) need to pressure the Obama Administration into enacting solutions and adjustments that meet the real needs of the people – which would never be an option if ever returning to ‘more of the same’ that has already cost us so much.

    September 14, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  10. Tom

    One fourth trusts the government? Is that the same group who falls for the Nigerian email scams?

    September 14, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Andrew

    And that 25% either lives off or works for the govt...

    September 14, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  12. Tom-Vermillion Ohio

    I as well have not trusted government for quite some time now. Then, I sat down and asked myself the simple question, which part of government do I NOT trust? Beyond all doubts, it is those who toute themselves as 'conservatives'. Included in that catagory I do NOT trust, are the following: Conservative Supreme Court Judges, Conservative Democrats, Conservative Republicans, Conservative Libertarians, Conservative Constitutionalists...ALL BAD, VERY BAD. Fiscally responsible is OKAY, moderate (RINO) Republicans are OKAY, Independent (no party) are OKAY along with moderate and regular Democrats. And ya'll can take that to the bank!

    September 14, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. No Way Joe

    I'm surprised it's that high.

    September 14, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. Me


    September 14, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. trust

    trust em about as much as I could hurl a tanker. They are all in it for the money and power. Ego trips

    September 14, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Karl in Charleston,SC

    And those 25% are delusional.

    September 14, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  17. T'SAH from Virginia

    75% of Americans have Heart Burn after eating HOT BURRITOS – so???

    Let a catastrophe happen and watch how many people in America look towards the government to RESPOND – my point exactly!!

    DEMOCRATS – In order to win this you have to STATE your CASE – UNITE the BASE and we will go on to WIN this RACE in November!!!

    September 14, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  18. Parth Punjabi

    Okay, the poll says that 25% trust the government all the time and 63% trust the government some of the time. So, at least 88% of those polled trust government somewhat. But CNN would have you believe that only 25% of the people trust the government at all by just glancing at the headline. Way to lure'em in CNN!!!

    September 14, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  19. jay

    100 percent shouldn't trust the GOP, they led to the nontrust of Government.

    September 14, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. Randy

    Recently what has government, or political party done to earn trust. Second this trend of mistrust, low approval numbers, and threats of violience (I don't condone it), will continue until as long as people feel government is doing things to them, instead of with them. I wish I could remember who said, a leader is only a leader as long as someone is following.

    September 14, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  21. gt

    those 25 % are the ones who either get a ck or have a government job...

    September 14, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  22. Critical Thinker

    After the oil, banking, and health care crises, I wonder how many people trust the private sector because that's the alternative to government.

    September 14, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  23. Toughlove

    ONE reason America doesn't trust our govt is that Obama has acted tyrannical in that he has pushed through an agenda that the majority of Americans are screaming that they dont well as attacking a news source (Fox) so as to attempt to limit our sources of information, a healthcare program that at least smells socialist if it isn't, putting his political clout behind a mosque the majority of us don't think should be there, sky rocketing the debt while we scream no, etc, etc, etc.

    September 14, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. D. Bunker

    According to my poll, only 5% of the public trusts big business, Wall St. or insurance companies.

    September 14, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  25. Dave

    The trust is proportional to the size: you grow the size of government and think the public will rely on it, and the public knowing government does not know or has the ability to run things is less and less reliable!

    September 14, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
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