February 22nd, 2010
10:30 AM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: Three-fourths think federal officials not honest

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/21/art.george0221.gi.jpg caption="As the United States marks its first president's birthday, a new poll indicates that 74 percent of the public thinks the father of our country did lie to the public while he served as president."]
Washington (CNN) - Folklore says that George Washington was known for never telling a lie. But as the United States marks its first president's birthday, a new poll indicates that 74 percent of the public thinks the father of our country did lie to the public while he served as president - an indication that Americans think that the government has been broken for a very, very long time.

The CNN/Opinion Corporation survey was released Monday, the 278th anniversary of Washington's birth.

Full results (pdf)

Three quarters of people questioned in the survey think that modern-day federal officials are not honest, a figure that is essentially unchanged since 1994. But the poll suggests that Americans think the problem of dishonesty is not a new one.

And it's not just George Washington. 71 percent think that Abraham Lincoln, known as "Honest Abe," also lied to the public while serving in the White House.

"It's all part of a rich tradition in American history - the belief that politicians are not always telling the truth," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

What should we make of the figures for Washington and Lincoln?

"Part of it may be the recognition that, however much we revere them today, both men were politicians, and Americans are always a little cynical about people seeking office. Part of it may also be a realistic assessment that the president sometimes has to keep things from the public," adds Holland. "But whether it's based on cynicism or realism, or a little of both, it's an indication that Americans think that our government has been broken for many, many years."

According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the government in this country is broken, but the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what's broken can be fixed.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: CNN poll
soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Emma

    Are we surprised? We know that corporations have called the shot to avoid curbs on their greediness. And we all know our legislators profit greatly from corporations.

    February 22, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. Denise

    I have never, ever been polled. I am tired of polls and I am tired of lawmakers saying the American people do/do not want this and they have never asked me a question about what I want or think.

    February 22, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. geecee

    Is this a sudden revelation? Many politicians have been "on the take" from lobbyists for years and years. Do we want to somehow claim it's only now that we see thishappening? Where was everybody the past 40 years or so when we were getting ripped off and eventually got into this mess which the current Administration is trying to get us out of. Americans act like this is something new and Obama is responsible. How nice they have someone they can really hate and blame now!! Morons.

    February 22, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. Gilliard

    Count me in. How many times is this proven during each "Administration"?

    Strange how there never really seems to be any accountability either.

    Our Government is more self-serving than citizen supporting. Big Government for the sake of Big Government.

    Change has not come, nor will it.

    February 22, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  5. seid

    I'm sick and tired of your survey. All questions you framed was biased and highly opinionated. Look at the survey you have been conducted recently...ALL SCUKS!!!... Keating Holland-are you planing to run for a Republican

    February 22, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  6. carrie

    We do not need a poll to tell us the obvious!

    February 22, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Aspen Professor

    And of course 3/4 of the American public is dumb as a doorknob when it comes to speaking out before they know the facts. Example - Palin with her Death Panels. Fox Channel Beck, Hannity and friends on just about any subject. .

    February 22, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. j

    People lie to their kids all the time (i.e. tooth fairy, easter bunny, santa claus, religion, etc). It's part of the human condition to lie so why should anyone be surprised when public figures lie. The problem is when the lie becomes detrimental to an individuals character or image, such as slander, the rights of a individual or group, or to the country as a whole.

    It'd be great if public figures were different from ordinary people but, for the most part, they aren't. IMHO, the Conservatives are the biggest liars. They've lied about health care reform, they've been hypocrites when it comes to the stimulus, and they've lied about growing the government and deficit spending. They promise tax cuts but only deliver for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor.

    February 22, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Ethan

    How many AMERICANS are dishonest?

    Based on their comments on a wide variety of websites, my estimate of the number of Republican commenters who are dishonest is somewhere between 99.99999% and 100%.

    February 22, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. Emile Zola

    I want a second opinion. They all are dishonest. And to put the cherry on top, put there corporate America. We wouldn't want the top jewel of the crown not getting its due.

    February 22, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. JonDie

    Just proves how ignorant and dum the average American is, and how "ignoranter" and "dummer" the average conservative is.

    February 22, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    I think banning career lawyer politicians would go a long way to fix this although I know you cannot really do that.

    And yes, Obama is one too. And he acts like it.

    Vote for your favorite 3rd party locally at least – let's get an overturn started.

    February 22, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
1 2 3 4 5