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

    Watergate was not a big deal. The coverup of Watergate was.

    August 8, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Off A Cough

    The hyperbole in these comments reflects just how dysfunctional our society has become. Are there no more adults among us?

    August 8, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  3. nexalist

    Congress trades votes for campaign contributions. The government corporate complex has to be downsized.

    August 8, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Dennis R. Torii, Jr.

    Progressivism has caused the hardening of the Parties and Society. We can see things began to unravel under Theodore Roosevelt and it metastasized under Woodrow Wilson. Anyone who says that they cannot be brainwashed is the easiest mind to influence.

    August 8, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. stuball

    Our current government is at an all-time low, and all this article can do is talk about Watergate - from 40 years ago.

    How about discussing THE CURRENT leader calling the shots?!?

    August 8, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Just like a lib to have to revert to Watergate. This is much more egregious than that. Nixon was impeached. Impeach now! If our country goes down CNN will not be spared.

    August 8, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. OBAMA - THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    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.
    +++++++++++
    Rudy I am not sure I understand your comment but no matter which party or person is in office if the government targets citizens someone needs to go to jail. I know most Americans do not like tyrants or bullies regardless of ideology. If that involves conflict so be it.

    August 8, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. B Da Truth

    Lies about Fast and Furious, Lies about Obamacare, Lies about IRS targeting, Lies about NSA spying, Lies about George W Bush, Lies about border security, Lies about War and Lies about Peace and lies about the state of the Economy everywhere you look at this current administration it is a web of lies and secret backed up by a lying partisan news media.
    What did anyone expect this poll to find?

    August 8, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. WOW?!

    "CNN Poll Trust in Government at all Time Low"

    Thank you Captain Obvious. It only took a mega-news corporation to tell people what they already know. Now try actually doing some real journalism to find out why..

    August 8, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Daniel Petry

    All time low? Who cares. I know of a number of people who consider Washington DC and those that inhabit it one of the most evil cities in the world. I can assure you that there would be cheering in the streets if we woke up one day and it was a smoking crater. The amazing thing is inside the walls of that town there are Senators, Representative, Presidents, and bureaucrats. Outside the walls they are just ignorant, despicable, lazy control freaks.

    August 8, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. Jeff

    What went on illegally during the Nixon years is STATUS QUO now the the NSA, FBI and CIA spying on us. We get exactly what we deserve....

    August 8, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. WallytheDog

    Our government has become incompetent, corrupt and dangerous. It no longer serves the people, it serves special interest and itself. It is completely incompetent and bloated to the point that it can no longer even preform even simple tasks more often causing harm than progress. Look how it treats it's veterans and waste our tax dollars. Everything the government touches is turned to K rap.

    August 8, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. mike miracle

    With our feds leading us into a world war with either russia or china, i think that the numbers are actually much lower.
    It takes a UK paper to tell us about russian incursions into our airspace, even the mouthpiece of the beast (main stream media) is no longer on our side.
    We are being setup by a criminal enterprise called democrat/republican, most likely for a land exchange as has happened historically.

    August 8, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. Daniel Petry

    A bona fide criminal syndicate.

    August 8, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Jack Gil

    It is a good thing Mitt will be our next President. He will restore faith, trust, honor and competence to the Whitehouse and government.

    August 8, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. Momcat

    Obama shows no respect for the rule of law, rewards cronies while punishing dissenters, and continues wars with out end. Comparisons with Nixon are certainly fair, although the media is more inclined to sweep Obama's crimes under the rug, especially the IRS scandal. Now why is that?

    August 8, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. WallytheDog

    Our government has become incompetent, corrupt and dangerous. It no longer serves the people, it serves special interest and itself. It is completely incompetent and bloated to the point that it can no longer even preform even simple tasks more often causing harm than progress. Look how it treats it's veterans and waste our tax dollars. Everything the government touches is turned to sewage.

    August 8, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Bud Wood

    Remember thatb everyone does what he or she believes is in his/her best interest. And that most everyone has a very short memory.

    August 8, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. rosswill

    The unmentioned point that is being glossed over is that the country has the same attitude towards the government headed by Nixon as they do by the Obama administration. Not good news for the Democrats.

    August 8, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. DMH123

    Trust in government is low because they keep lying to us. "you can keep your health insurance plan", "You can keep your doctor", "the NSA doesn't collect phone records", "the CIA didn't spy on the Senate", "the IRS scandal was just a couple of rogue agents", "Benghazi was the result of a youtube video", "the hard drive crashed and the server wasn't backed up". They lie often and the lie repeatedly. Is it any wonder?

    August 8, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. A/S

    dirka dirka Democrats...dirka dirka...Republicans. The left right paradigm is the true core of our problems....Realize that and you may be getting somewhere. This is why States should have the power. You wanna live in a conservative area...go for it. Liberal area? Feel free. Let the local legislatures dictate. National dictates always fail. This was the original intention. We need a small federal governemnt that regulates the basics and defers on all of the little stuff like gay marriage to their own state legislatures.

    August 8, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. C.S.

    I certainty do wish that all of the hippies of the 'me-generation' would die off like Nixon did so we can stop talking about WaterGate. I really, really hope that dimentia completely sets in for them from all of the drugs usage. The 'progressive' ideas supplied by the news media journalists have screwed the world and have really catered to what the bankers wanted (proof: the wealthier are more wealthy in the last 6 years while the poor are poorer and the middle-class is joining them). Who cares about Nixon? He's a rotting corpse now. If Russia starts blowing up stuff on U.S. soil, the hippies of the 'me-generation' a.k.a Clintons, etc.won't get a chance at election, nor will anyone care about Nixon but a bunch of burn-outs living in nursing homes.

    August 8, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. Harry Shell

    ISIS says that the flag of Allah will fly at the White House. Under any other president – even Carter – I'd have laughed at barbarians as insignificant fleas. But under Obama? I think they not only have a fighting chance; I think they have allies in this Administration.

    August 8, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Wes

    obama is a disaster.

    August 8, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    The corruption within every agency should terrify all Americans. They act as
    judge, jury and executioner. There is no business or individual which can not
    be destroyed by a malevolent bureaucrat. Due process is a joke as no one can afford the cost to defeat a government attack. This administration has developed
    an extortion racket that the Gambino family would admire. Unless you are an
    illegal, a Muslim, an atheist, black or gay, there is no recourse against injustice.

    August 8, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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