CNN Poll: Trust in government at all-time low
August 8th, 2014
06:00 AM ET
3 months ago

CNN Poll: Trust in government at all-time low

Washington (CNN) – Four decades after President Richard Nixon resigned, a slight majority of Americans still consider Watergate a very serious matter, a new national survey shows. But how serious depends on when you were born.

The CNN/ORC International poll's release comes one day before the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974. With the Watergate scandal escalating, the second-term Republican president had lost much of his political backing, and he faced almost certain impeachment and the prospects of being removed from office by a Democratic-dominated House and Senate.

There's a big generational divide over the significance of the scandal, with a majority of those older than 40 describing Watergate as a very serious problem and those under 40 saying it was just politics.

The poll also indicates that the public's trust in government is at an all-time low.

Just 13% of Americans say the government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time, with just over three-quarters saying only some of the time and one in 10 saying they never trust the government, according to the poll.

"The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

"But polls conducted by the University of Michigan consistently found a majority of Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s saying that the government could be trusted all or most of the time - until Watergate. In 1972, 53% said they trusted the government always or most of the time. By 1974, that figure had plummeted to 36%, and except for a brief period of patriotic sentiment immediately after the 9/11 attacks, it has remained under 50% ever since," Holland added.

The survey indicates that skepticism doesn't stop at the White House and Capitol Hill: Only 17% of Americans believe that big business can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.

The scandal was triggered by the June 1972 breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters, which was located at the time in Washington's Watergate complex. Attempts by the Nixon White House to cover up its involvement were investigated by Congress, leading to a constitutional crisis.

Fifty-one percent of those questioned say Watergate was a very serious matter because it revealed corruption in the Nixon administration, with 46% saying it was just politics - the kind of thing both parties engage in. The 51% is unchanged from 14 years ago, when CNN last asked the question.

The poll indicates a slight partisan divide, with Democrats by a 58%-37% saying Watergate was a very serious matter, with Republicans saying the same thing by a 51%-48% margin. By a 51%-46% margin, independents say Watergate was just politics.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Massachusetts Victim

    I live in Massachusetts and the State recently kidnapped a teenage girl away from her family for no reason whatsoever when she came to Massachusetts from Connecticut for medical treatment. After a year and half long battle with the State that almost killed the girl because the State stopped her medical treatment, she was finally returned to her parents. trust government??? HELL NO!!!

    August 8, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "Yet Nixon's mere lie in denying knowledge after the fact of the Watergate break in was enough to impeach him before a Democrat congress."

    LOL! If you think that's all that forced Nixon to deal with impeachment and resignation, then you clearly don't know your history.

    August 8, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. johnd

    I have some special knowledge of a tiny bit of this situation. Most people now have a big misunderstanding. First, Nixon had no idea what Watergate was about. Even a year later he did not know. The people who broke into the hotel had no idea. They were told that it had to do with national security and all of them believed it. When the police caught them, most were in a secretary's office, not the head office. The taping system in the Whitehouse was much the same as the one LBJ had, which was much better than the one JFK had. It turns out that Deep Throat, was a jealous, angry Number 2 man in the FBI, upset because Nixon did not appoint him as head of the FBI. Both the Senate and the House were controlled by the Democrats, thus Nixon believed there was little chance of exoneration, regardless of facts.

    August 8, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. gia jones

    No administration has lied as flagrantly and often as this. Bush made HUGE
    mistakes and his operatives would spin the issues in his favor, but Jay Carney
    alone told more demonstrably false statements than I have seen previously.
    The American people are correct NOT to trust this government, which under
    Bush and Obama has infiltrated every facet of life. Obama is much worse
    because of the near total control over the economy he has commandeered
    just through the IRS, EPA, DOL, CFPB, DOJ, NLRB and HHS. The fact that
    he is throughly corrupt is mimicked throughout his regime. End his monarchy
    in November even if the GOP offers little salvation.

    August 8, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Protecting vested cost in lives, wounded, family sacrifices,******WASTED******** because of a president scared of leading from the front"

    Protecting vested cost in lives, wounded, family sacrifices,******WASTED******** because of a president who started an unnecessary, unjustified, completely ridiculous war based on lies.

    FIFY

    Obama was following the Status of Forces Agreement that Dubya made with Iraq, which Al-Maliki was 100% opposed to extending or altering and would not negotiate or compromise on. Period. And so, yet again, we have a RWNJ whackadoo blaming Obama for not being able to do things that others actively prevented him from being able to do, just like they do when they obstruct everything in Congress. Staying beyond the SOFA over Iraq's duly elected government's objections would have been an act of occupation and war.

    August 8, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "Why do you think thy created ISIS ?"

    Because "Tea Party" was already taken?

    August 8, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. "Breath and Release"

    The sad thing here is that there is NO interest in discussion or solving any problems. So many on this blog just love to spew hate and it is hate without thought that will eventually turn this country into another Middle East. When you are willing to lie to make your point or just say angry things about another person you have cut off your chances of ever understanding that person. This country has spent every minute of it's existence welcoming people in and working to make everybodies life better. Why has this changed?
    (PS – This is a question you should ask of yourself along with "How can I be better?")
    We must STOP the hate if we really want this country to be great again.

    August 8, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    @gia jones – No administration has lied as flagrantly and often as this. Bush made HUGE mistakes and his operatives would spin the issues in his favor, but Jay Carney alone told more demonstrably false statements than I have seen previously. The American people are correct NOT to trust this government, which under Bush and Obama has infiltrated every facet of life. Obama is much worse because of the near total control over the economy he has commandeered
    just through the IRS, EPA, DOL, CFPB, DOJ, NLRB and HHS. The fact that he is throughly corrupt is mimicked throughout his regime. End his monarchy in November even if the GOP offers little salvation.
    --------------------------
    I'm sorry.. but why do Republicans believe everything Fox tells them? I almost ruined a monitor reading this. The low information right voters vote right for a reason... sheesh!

    August 8, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. WeAreTheRulers

    Black and Brown men are superior in all ways ! White man has put the world in decline and that is why there is no trust.

    August 8, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. Jake Lakota

    The PRESS made a big deal about Watergate. They broke in because of compromising evidence regarding John Dean. In the 1990's Dean brought a libel suit against GG Liddy which he subsequently withdrew. Nixon was over-protective. The nutcase in the White House right now makes Nixon look like a hero and I defy you to tell prove he's better.

    August 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. imahippyburning

    When you have an incompetent corrupt President presiding over the most openly corrupt Administration even the Low Information Cretins living amongst us will take notice! Thanks for waking up, now stop all the taking and see what you can do to help get us fixed!

    August 8, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. Ash Housewares

    Well the 10% that believe that you can never trust govt are 100% correct – I guess that's a little reassuring.

    August 8, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    So, billy winthrop believes that because government does not turn a profit, it should be as limited and as impotent as possible. I guess Adam Smith would have had more than a few things to say about that in " The Wealth of Nations", since he contended that a well-regulated economy was absolutely vital to society and to the nation as a whole. He also stated that the business community could not be trusted with power, since it would confuse their well-being with the well-being of the nation. I'm sure that the words of the godfather of modern capitalism would get him stoned to death by the howling, deregulatory mob that always babbles about the wonders of capitalism without admitting that it has less that desirable side effects for many.

    August 8, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. Soloc

    Sniffit

    "Why do you think thy created ISIS ?"

    Because "Tea Party" was already taken?
    ____________________
    You probably be bombing buildings with Bill Ayers if he was still in action.

    August 8, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. VoteLoud

    If the fawning media treated Obama clinically and without gushing favor, Obama would be much lower in the polls than he is now.

    Bush tolerated a tirade of leftist attacks from the Corporate Media Monopoly and his ratings are the same as Obama's, within the margin of error.

    One can only hope that the media will become realistic regarding Obama's radical agenda and will once again side with the American majority...

    NAH!

    August 8, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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