CNN Poll: Trust in government at all-time low
August 8th, 2014
06:00 AM ET
2 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. jpmichigan

    This administration has made a mockery of the government. There is NO! transparency, only distortion. Continuously the President voices not knowing what I going on, and learning about apparent distortions of various agencies of the government through the media, which he states he never watches. My grandchildren will learn about the government functions and the three branches function in school, just to hear and see that none of it is practiced. OH! What a deceitful web we weave, this government under this administration.

    August 8, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Shocked, shocked I tell you!

    August 8, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  3. Gunderson

    Whazzat?,
    People don't trust Government? Well it was people that elected them. This poll is a result of over 100 years of Liberal Politics. When you put someone else in charge of your life these are the results. CLUE: It is way past time for the States to take over all the Social Programs and get the Federal Government out of it. The basic job of the Congress in the domestic sector is to make the laws as fair as possible within the confines of the Constitution Of which Congress doesn't need to be in session all the time.

    Watergate was one bunch of politicians checking up on another bunch of politicians. They were amateur's. Today the Liberal's have it down to a science. They used the IRS to screw the Tea Party. Or by illegal Executive Fiat. Stay Tuned!!

    August 8, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "By a 51%-46% margin, independents say Watergate was just politics."

    Probably the only interesting tidbit in the article. I wonder if the GOP/Teatrolls understand what that means in terms of independents' perceptions of their obvious attempts to work themselves up into an impeachment frenzy.

    Do you REALLY think the GOP/Teatrolls can resist trying to impeach Obama if they take the Senate in November and keep the House? I don't. Absolutely not. Nutjobs gone wild. They'll go for it and then begin trying pass as much symbolic messaging legislation as possible to force Obama to veto it all. And it will backfire.

    August 8, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  5. Ol' Yeller

    @Rick McDaniel

    ignorant people can SEE this regime is totally corrupt, and doing illegal activities. They are so out of control only the mindless can see it.

    FIFY

    August 8, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  6. captains courageous

    Jxt, its both parties, j Anthony said it very well, that's why they keep you at each others throat's, keeps you off theirs.

    August 8, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    There are more reasons to mistrust government after the conservative wing of the Supreme Court sold the country to the highest bidder with its Citizens United decision.

    August 8, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  8. Uncle Rufus

    Nixon was a saint compared to the lawless tyrant Obama.

    August 8, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  9. Funkae

    Thanks for bringing all of us down Obama.. Hope and change LOL

    August 8, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  10. Regressive

    And everyone will continue to vote for these same people time and time again so nothing changes.

    August 8, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  11. A Kickin Donkey

    Obama's ethics are an order of magnitude HIGHER than Nixon's. You need only listen to Nixon tapes to fnd this out.

    The idea that the GOP would try to impeach Obama is ridiculous while Nixon 's behavior precisely fit and CALLLED for impeachment AND conviction . They don't like OBAMA and the hate started long before his policies were in effect. Congress wants to pretend that they are the Board of Directors and that the President works for / reports to them. He does not.

    I distrust Republicans. Today's citizens need to understand the underhanded tendencies of Nixon. They need to remember the FABRICATED justification to get us into war in Iraq. They need to remember the behind the back talk revealed in the infamous 47% secret videotape of Romney. By comparison, Bill lied about a bj and extramarital sex ( which most of us who say is none of your business to a reporter).

    August 8, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. OBAMA - THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    You think? The government has targeted groups and gets away with it and they lie continuously with absolutely no consequences. Nixon was right to resign and should have been impeached him it he had not. The Obama administration hides and obfuscates any attempt at oversight and a majority of the press is compliant.

    August 8, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. courage and strength

    This administration needs to strengthen our military and stop the entitlements ...bring back capitalism which is the American Dream. Our physical safety is at risk...we are part of the check and balance for peace in the world. Our leader is all talk. His ideology is far from what our great country was founded on. Pray for mercy and wisdom!!!

    August 8, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. badtobone

    Watergate scandal was serious mater and a danger to American.
    But compared to today scandal. President Richard Nixon looks like a saint.
    The difference I see between Nixon time and now.
    If you had a scandal in Nixon time the press and people would hold you accountable, no excuse or blame.
    Today the press protects and the people whine but are divided into party lines and NO accountable.

    August 8, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Yep. And nary a day goes by that these supporters of big business can't be found on the ticker giving us their "trust in big business" talking point fodder.

    August 8, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  16. sonny chapman

    George W. said."Starve the Beast". Reagan said ,"Govt. IS the problem". Karl Rove said ,"Politics IS Warfare". The Repub. strategy is clear: Discourage & Dishearten the Lil People from believing that a National Democratic Govt. can be a means of improving their lives,
    Maybe King George II was right.,"Self Rule is folly". The Repub Party is really putting it to the test, GREAT PATRIOTS.

    August 8, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    OBAMA – THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    You think? The government has targeted groups and gets away with it and they lie continuously with absolutely no consequences. Nixon was right to resign and should have been impeached him it he had not. The Obama administration hides and obfuscates any attempt at oversight and a majority of the press is compliant.
    -----------------------------------–
    Good. That's just what the vast majority of Americans want to hear, the right wing vision of the future, conflict.

    August 8, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. Uncle Tom

    It may be time to scrap the way gov is run by special interest lobbiest and ideologues. take big money out ofpolitics elect Representatives that have the best interest of thenation and the fewest personal biases but I'm just a dreamer

    August 8, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. Jarlsbane

    All governments are evil. The longer they exist, the more evil they are. The US government has existed a long, long time.

    August 8, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. Sniffit

    "Nixon was a saint compared to the lawless tyrant Obama."

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "Nixon was a wholesome white man exercising his righteous authority, but Obama is a upjumped disobedient 'boy'."

    August 8, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  21. Sniffit

    " And nary a day goes by that these supporters of big business can't be found on the ticker giving us their "trust in big business" talking point fodder."

    Makes you wonder whether we should invent a word or phrase for people who are essentially analogous to economic Uncle Toms with respect to our would-be plutocrat masters of the universe overlords. Hmmmm..."scab" is already taken in another context, but it's the closest one I can think of at the moment....so we'll have to be creative.

    August 8, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  22. Sniffit

    "All governments are evil. The longer they exist, the more evil they are. The US government has existed a long, long time."

    The Founding Fathers certainly didn't seem to think so. What's your alternative then, Zippy?

    August 8, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  23. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Jarlsbane says:
    August 8, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am
    All governments are evil. The longer they exist, the more evil they are. The US government has existed a long, long time

    Sorry I can't agree with you. If not for the federal government by way of President Lincoln, I'd either be working for free or long dead. Knowing me, I'd have been swinging a long time ago.

    August 8, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Clyde Crashcup

    A Poll? Whom did they poll? I was never a part of it so I think it is biased.

    August 8, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. Fair is Fair

    Tom l

    Let me help all of you out before they comment and I can save you a little time. If there is a comment from Sniffit, it will go like this and include the following:

    -GOP/Teattroll fault as they want to break govt
    -demographic Armageddon
    -browning of America
    -a possible divisive "red state takers" comment
    -bigoted, hatred and/or repubs are misogynists
    -Murika reference
    -an overall dems good repubs evil theme
    -a little long winded and a lot of twenty five cent words

    You may now proceed to the next comment
    ---------
    Not bad... but you left out "Teatroll Rosetta Stone says...."

    August 8, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
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