Poll: Americans trust local government more than federal
Voters in line up at the town hall in San Francisco, Minnesota.
October 3rd, 2011
11:43 AM ET
3 years ago

Poll: Americans trust local government more than federal

Washington (CNN) – Nearly 70% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in their local government, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

This number contrasts dramatically with a CNN/ORC International Poll released last week that had American's confidence in government at an all-time low. According to the poll, 15% of Americans say they trust the federal government to do what is right about always or some of the time.

"The previous all-time low was 17%, set in the summer of 1994," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Before the Watergate scandal, a majority of Americans said they trusted the government always or most of the time, but since 1974 that has happened only during a brief period in 2001 immediately after the 9/11 terrorism attacks."

The Gallup poll shows American's confidence in their local government has remained steady over the last decade. Two years ago, state government's polled evenly to local governments, but when budgetary woes hit cash-strapped states in 2008, confidence fell to as low as 51% and now hovers around 57%.

The same trend is seen in the legislative branch, too.

In 2005, 62% of American's trusted the legislative branch of the federal government. That number has now been cut in half; only 31% of American's trust Congress.

"State and local governments cannot perform many of the policy roles for which the federal government is responsible," wrote Gallup's Lydia Saad in the poll release. "Yet state and local officials could find that the public trust they enjoy would provide them strong public support for taking more control from Washington of the areas they are already involved in, such as education, health and human services, transportation, environmental regulations, and crime control."

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 8-11, 2011, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sampling error is plus or minus four percent.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from September 23-25, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. logic in LA

    If by local they mean city- of course they do! Once the fed and states kick in the money to keep cities going, why not trust them? Make America's cities totally self-sufficient and watch that change!
    Less polls- they can make their own case through the wording

    October 3, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. Bill from GA

    You wouldn't find those results in Dekalb County, GA.

    October 3, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. B

    Most folks do not trust the Government, Federal or local, as this country is being driven by Corporate money influence at all levels.

    We are headed backwards to the – pre depression days of total control by Corporate Moguls that own Government at all levels from Congress to the local Cops.

    October 3, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. MICKYD

    Yeah, move to Texas and see if you agree! Ha!

    October 3, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. YOU Decide 2012: A bankrupt socialist welfare country or a thriving capitalist super power

    Our country was designed to have MINIMAL federal power and maximum state, local AND INDIVIDUAL power. The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of a powerful federal government (just like the king they had just gotten rid of) which is why only very specific, enumerated powers were granted to them in the Constitution.

    The Democrats have turned the country into a massive federal bureacracy with massive federal entitlements funded by massive taxes and borrowing. They have rendered local government impotent. The weight of the massive federal government and all of laws and regulations is crushing state and local governments. Witness the coercion to get federal funds, do what we say or get cut off.

    October 3, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  6. DA

    @B that is so true, it is all about Corporation!!

    October 3, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. YOU Decide 2012: A bankrupt socialist welfare country or a thriving capitalist super power

    @B that is so true, it is all about Corporation!!
    ====================================
    Without businesses providing jobs, taxes what would you have??? NOTHING!!!!!!!
    The world has already seen how well governemnts with total control work out, aka Soviet Union. Even was "equal" in their abject poverty, except those in government positions. Empty store shelves for the masses.

    Please get a clue. Or go live in Cuba.

    October 3, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Ofcoursetheydo

    More people trust their local government because they get to pick their local government.

    I'm represented much less by my own choices at the federal level. California and New York's representatives have much more say in my life than people who understand my situation in my region.

    October 3, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    You Decide wrote:
    Our country was designed to have MINIMAL federal power and maximum state, local AND INDIVIDUAL power.
    -------------
    How true. So where is "we the business, for the business, by the business" in all of that? It doesn't exist. The US government was formed to protect the people, not shelter the businesses and allow them abuse the people.

    October 3, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "15% of Americans say they trust the federal government to do what is right about always or some of the time."

    GOP: "Mission Accomplished"

    October 3, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    You Decide wrote:
    The world has already seen how well governemnts with total control work out, aka Soviet Union. Even was "equal" in their abject poverty, except those in government positions.
    -------------
    The world watched as one of the smallest governments per capita imploded because of its' own greed and corruption.

    What is the difference between a government that controls the economy and its' business, and an economy and businesses that control its' government? None.

    October 3, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. Jeff

    An apostrophe does not mean, "Holy crap, here comes an S!"

    October 3, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "They have rendered local government impotent."

    Name us a state or local government that could function without the money that the federal government provides it...exrta opints if you can find one in a heavily red state like, say, Mississippi.

    October 3, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Power to the states

    Goodbye liberal waste, hello Tea-Party. This is exactly why the Tea-Party is gaining strength; big gov is a waste of resources and people are finally seeing it.

    October 3, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Bryan

    That was fast.

    October 3, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. Satan

    Of course they trust local government more. The devil you know face to face is better than the one you don't see.

    October 3, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Herne

    Finding out what happens in one or two hick towns... doesn't count CNN.....from local to federal.....they ALL need to go. Our mainstream media really needs to get with the program.

    October 3, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Remember to call on all that "local government" next time an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado hits ok?

    October 3, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    OfCourseTheyDo wrote:
    I'm represented much less by my own choices at the federal level. California and New York's representatives have much more say in my life than people who understand my situation in my region.
    -------------
    That is exactly why we have bicameral legislature in the Congress. It works both ways. In the Senate, the larger states are on equal footing with the smaller states, which gives them the benefit of a larger voice. In the House, the larger majority is allowed to have a larger voice.

    October 3, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. EMMARAIN

    @logic in LA.....since we pay federal and state taxes why wouldn't some of those amounts go to local gov't? Make local gov't self sufficient?.. GO FOR IT....to only have to pay local taxes???? No fed and gov't tax AND I get more say in what it is spent on!!

    October 3, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    Corporatists = Fascists.

    Need more be said?

    October 3, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. king

    hey i guest the only government the people have to fall back on is the state government. the federal government is broke. the people voted in the kkk, i meant the tea baggers into power knowing full well what their only reason was. now they look surprise why things are not moving. come on if you guys want to get rid of this president and put your corporate masters and the repugs in power over the congress and presidency stop beating around the bush.

    October 3, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |