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. Anonymous

    It's even lower than that. "Never" was an answer people volunteered. It wasn't even given as an option. If it had been offered it probably would have been a lot higher than 10%.

    August 8, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @soul leister
    Here we go again, the nobel peace prize president is killing more civilians with bombs (didn't he just whine and complain about Israel doing that?). Obama has bombed more countries (and killed more kids) than the Israelis but oddly hasn't returned his foolishly pre-awarded nobel peace prize (now also an affirmative action award not requiring any actual peace progress).
    ---------------
    Typical 5 minute memory conservative. No recollection of W invasion or even last week when they called for Obama to "be strong" and bomb "sumptin".

    August 8, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Paulytical

    Hmmm. It must be Bush's fault, it just took six years. Meanwhile, Harry Reid refuses to have a vote on any legislation originating in the House, but Reid's obstruction is the fault of Republicans. It's anything EXCEPT 0bama! He's the most important president that has done so much that isn't responsible for anything. Amazing.

    August 8, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. g da

    Sniffit "The Tree of Liberty may need watering."

    We'll get right on that as soon as the GOP/Teatrolls are done peeing on it.

    August 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |

    The right after the libturds sh _it on it.

    Sniffit Man, it's raining Teatroll sockpuppets and dittoheads in here.

    August 8, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |

    Its stinks like libturds in here. Shoo wee

    August 8, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Porsche

    Hey Obummer, what a freakin' idiot you are! Man, I hope I live long enough to pee on your grave – soon! I consider you our enemy and a terrorist since you are the one that has enable ISIS to come back into Iraq and kill those who don't conform to their Diaper-Head religion. In fact, I hope you get arrested and thrown in GITMO since that is where you belong!

    August 8, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Joshua Morrison

    Democracy is fascinating. Our government really does represent us. When the electorate becomes jaded, disaffected, and paranoid then we elect jaded, disaffected, paranoid representatives. No wonder we don't trust us. We suck.

    August 8, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Sniffit
    Man, it's raining Teatroll sockpuppets and dittoheads in here.
    ------------

    LOL. The newest top of the line FOX special: Bloviating whine corkscrews.

    August 8, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. JJR

    The US government is hopelessly broken and only serves the elected ones.

    August 8, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. anzablazer

    You have to be plain stupid to trust the Government about anything.

    August 8, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. ireuel

    If you really evaluate the whole situation instead of looking at this with political blinders on. Both side are responsible and the whole system is broke due to a government that has tried to please the special interests they get their money from to keep them in the positions they are in. Most elected officials talk in sound bites that are that turn into talking points for the lemmings that write posts here and there and everywhere. Oh and you people and your "sources" "facts" and repeated half truths are the worst. So let see where we are today. 17 Trillion dollars PLUS debt (recorded Debt) Social Security and Medicare on life support. A "Affordable Care Act" Law that is already one trillion dollars more than to what sold to us for. You know also the debt that is going to explode any time now is also the QE 1 and QE 2 printing of money thingy. So you hacks (from both sides) just keep calling each other names . Clause in the end this ship is sinking with all of us on it. See you in the life raft.

    August 8, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  11. Myke

    Who cares? The POTUS is not the "head of the household" and we all know it.

    Put a Republican/Democrat in as POTUS. It doesn't matter.

    Put a Libertarian in as POTUS, and we could do some (positive) damage to the Status Quo on both sides of the aisle.

    August 8, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. bts

    It is somewhat sad that people under 40 consider Watergate – "only politics" - it appears that the current group in Washington D.C. has no respect for the laws of our country and everything - and they base their political duty about their duty uphold our laws. Watergate was government running wild and thankfully there were a few statesmen (both Democratic and Republican) that chose to put their duty to govern and maintain this country about their duty to their respective political parties.

    August 8, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. YoonYoungJo

    I think many in Congress and Senate might believe the lack of trust in Govt is happening because of incidents like the Snowden leak, etc. What they fail to understand, in my opinion, is that those issues really have nothing to so with it. Cthe erosion of trust in the US Govt comes from our Govt placing the well being and consideration of US citizens, secondary to foreign interests. By the way, I am still trying to figure out when and why that happened? At what point in time did the US Govt decide it was more important to protect foreign interest and foreign activity, over the welfare and well being of Its own citizens? It almost appears that the US Govt decided that protecting is from Muslim Terrorists is all that is necessary to prove they are protecting us. Completely ignoring all other dangers from all other foreign powers. This country has been bamboozled for years, had its tech stolen for years, has had foreign powers infiltrate our highest offices for years, yet somehow just doesn't think its a big deal. No, what's important is we completely focus on getting those terrorists hiding in the mountains in the Middle East. Not saying capturing Al Quaeda terrorists isn't paramount because it is, but there are other forms of terrorism and other forms of attacks, other then bombings and the US Govt has not only allowed it but in some cases perpetuated and protected that attack on its own citizens. How that could be considered a good idea is beyond me. At what point in time did we decide, for the sake of fake world solidarity, that it was alright for foreign powers to exploit our most vulnerable as long as they only exploit the vulnerable? At times it seems we are more interested in the well being of foreign citizens and how foreign countries are doing, rather then our own. The US as a country needs to really get off its high perch, believing we can never be displaced or toppled. The US needs to understand when you are number one, there will always be countries aiming for that top spot. And as Putin in Russia has shown, will do anything possible to sabatoge it. After all, I don't think most people realize Puyins true end game at this point. It isn't Crimea and it isn't Ukraine. It doesn't even have anything to really do with invading. He wants the US to crumble like the Soviet Union did. That is really his true desire for the US to fall like his precious Soviet Union. How many other countries would aid him in his cause?

    August 8, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Gurgyl

    -well, it the people fault in 2012 to elect Republican house, so only no laws passed. You need senate/congress to pass. Republican intent is not to pass laws. When we had both, yes, we passed ACA Law, now you have health insurance–even red / neck state like kensas is showing 4 million enrolees. Now you blame Harry Reid, Obama–typical GOP trash, just shut up or put up. Know republicans landed USA in deep debt–not democrats. Ask congress to pass minimum wage increase–if you have guts.

    August 8, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. morebs

    when I read a lot of these post, I see a lot of ignorance. that is exactly what the people behind the closed doors were anticipating. that is why everyone needs to start doing some research to see what is really going on.

    August 8, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Porsche says:
    August 8, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm
    Hey Obummer, what a freakin’ idiot you are! Man, I hope I live long enough to pee on your grave – soon! I consider you our enemy and a terrorist since you are the one that has enable ISIS to come back into Iraq and kill those who don’t conform to their Diaper-Head religion. In fact, I hope you get arrested and thrown in GITMO since that is where you belong!

    Wow. Well these are the kinds of comments that Fox-lite loves.... Poor sad pathetic person.

    August 8, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  17. Mike Clancy

    Thank you Obubble's , and Mr. worthless Holder for the consistent pattern of destruction that you have brought upon our once great county.EWAD.

    August 8, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  18. portlandtony

    Polls like this mean nothing. Granted, the know and do nothing Congress, the ineffective and passive executive branch, and the radical opinions of the Supreme Court have all contributed to this lack of trust in our Government. But you can't please all the people all the time. But polls have to zero in on specific issues. Some folks think the government is in our face, doing to much, others think the government is to ridged. Not doing enough. Plus world events like, the Israelis Hamas fiasco, the events in Iraq, the emergence of ISIS, the Syrian revolution, the chaos in Libya, the Ebola outbreak, the problems in the Ukraine with Putin, the Boko Harem problems in Africa, the lack of decent jobs here in America, the immigration and border problems and so on have all given rise to uncertainty among Americans. Too many folks think our government can and do something to mitigate these issues. Where in most cases it can't do a damned thing without creating more problems.

    August 8, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. g da

    Silence DoGood @soul leister Here we go again, the nobel peace prize president is killing more civilians with bombs (didn't he just whine and complain about Israel doing that?). Obama has bombed more countries (and killed more kids) than the Israelis but oddly hasn't returned his foolishly pre-awarded nobel peace prize (now also an affirmative action award not requiring any actual peace progress). -----

    Typical 5 minute memory conservative. No recollection of W invasion or even last week when they called for Obama to "be strong" and bomb "sumptin".

    August 8, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |

    Typical 1 second memory of Obama saying: " President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long and polarizing war in Iraq to an end. After nearly 9 years, America's war in Iraq will be over," said Mr. Obama.

    Protecting vested cost in lives, wounded, family sacrifices,******WASTED******** because of a president scared of leading from the front. SHOVE YOUR LIBTARD CRAP BACK INTO YOUR MOUTH!

    August 8, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. whatever3210

    Wow, people are waking up? Seriously, I'm shocked. I didn't think anything would wake up the Obama crowd.

    August 8, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. excuse my rant

    itstoolate
    I am 71 years old and I have voted every year I was able. I have seen it all, I was not a racist, and I did not think that congress is as corrupt as it is. Since the satan obammy,....
    ____________________
    No point in even copying the rest of your post there. Childish talk like that will get you to lose all credibility with any rational person. Although, I'm sure you don't mind that at all. My guess is you are just trolling.

    August 8, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. Ral.w

    Why do you think thy created ISIS ? It'll go back up after thy kill the monster and save us all.

    August 8, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. DB

    Watergate was entirely about politics and a leftist press taking down a powerful Republican. They were entirely blase about the about the vote theft in Texas that brought the lunatic Lyndon Johnson into office (not to mention his weird predilections for taking open-door dumps in front of fellow politicians and staff and stripping naked as soon as he stepped foot on Air Force One including in front of women and children). He also got a complete pass on escalating the war in Viet Nam after expressly saying he would not ("I'm not going to send American boys to VietNam to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing for themselves") . 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.

    As usual, the liberals and Democrats in this country would rather they preside over a diminished America than allow someone else to preside over a greater America.

    August 8, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  24. Doug

    The lamestream media is also to blame by being a bunch of kiss a**es and not holding obama and his admin accountable.

    August 8, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  25. billy winthrop

    Government doesn't earn a dime. It confiscates wealth from the private sector. Government creates waste and inefficiency because there is no profit incentive. Because the government has power there must be corruption. Government is a necessary evil. Evil being the keyword. Therefore government needs to be kept as small as possible so as to minimize it's inevitable negative side effects. But alas this generation has not realized this fact. It saws government as the answer to all the worlds problems. But I argue that governments are at the very real cause of them.

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