April 19th, 2010
02:09 PM ET
12 years ago

Poll cites rising distrust of government in America

Washington (CNN) - Most Americans distrust the government these days, and the reasons have more to do with current economic and political conditions than personal ideology, according to polling by the Pew Research Center.

The results posted Sunday on the Pew Web site were similar to a CNN poll in February that found about one in four Americans trust the federal government to do what's right.

According to the Pew report based on polling conducted in March and April, the dissatisfaction is due to what it called a "perfect storm of
conditions associated with distrust of government - a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials."

Neither Republicans nor Democrats can be assured of gains from the discontent, according to the Pew report, which added that "favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all-time high, continues to climb."

The main Pew survey took place March 11-21 among 2,505 adults, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. Three other supporting surveys of approximately 1,000 adults each were conducted March 18-21, April 1-5 and April 8-11, with all three having a sampling error of 4 percentage points.

According to the results, 22 percent of respondents said they can trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time, which was among the lowest approval figures in a half century, according to the Pew report.

Congress received a favorable rating from 25 percent of respondents, the lowest such figure in a quarter century, the report said. The Obama
administration received a more positive job rating, with 40 percent saying it was doing an excellent or good job, it said.

A small but growing segment of the public holds intense anti-government views, according to the Pew report, with the number of respondents describing themselves as angry with the federal government doubling since 2000 to match the high of 20 percent last reached in October 2006.

"Intense anti-government sentiment is highly concentrated among certain groups - Republicans, independents and others who lean Republican, and those who agree with the Tea Party movement," the report said.

No single factor causes the general public distrust in government, the report said.

"Distrust of government soars when the public is unhappy with the way things are going in the country," it said, noting the recent downturn in trust in government began in the fall of 2008, "when public satisfaction plunged amid the financial crisis. "

Levels of public trust also depend on what party is in power, according to the report, with Republicans generally more trusting of a GOP-led government than Democrats are of a Democratic-led government.

The polling also found that 62 percent of respondents believe the federal government's priorities are misguided, resulting in policies that "do too little for average Americans."

Filed under: Poll
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Steve, New York City

    If you're not the NRA, big oil or Israel, the government (ESPECIALLY the US Congress) really doesn't care about you. Talk about having warped priorities. It makes me angry that the US Congress is for sale.

    April 19, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. MikeH

    The Republican's scorched earth policy, to destroy America rather than help Obama repair the damage caused by Bush, has a lot to do with this.

    Republicans are bordering on treason.

    April 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Josh

    Of course they do, thanks to the lying, hate mogering, bigots in the republican party. That doesn't mean that this president is not going to continue his work getting this country back on track. Just wait until november come, and we get rid of those lying wall street theives. Then the trust will come back.

    April 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. ray

    why is it that these same people never said anything about the government when gerorge bush was president?? bush had a surplus and and he spend like crazy and then we had the biggest spending under him, where these people then? i know because there is a blackman in the white house . what a shame.

    April 19, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. David

    The citizens are finally waking up!! Main stream media has kept the wool over the eyes of the people for too long now. Credit the internet with getting the truth out. The elites are going into overdrive now. Witness how they ordered Bush and Obama to "bailout" their companies, or in other words, transfer the money over to them.

    April 19, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It is because they can't figure out everything that is going on in most government offices and programs. There are plenty of various kinds of corruption that can be seen on the nightly news which frightens many people. I would hope that we could make government programs more understandable so that there are more people

    April 19, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. CF

    I wonder how much it also has to do with the constant flow of lies, misinformation, and fear mongering from the Right and their mouthpieces on Fox News and talk radio.

    The very same people who cheered "government is great / like it or get out!" are now suddenly anti-government, and often for the same policies.

    How do you spell hypocrisy? G-O-P.

    April 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. stevegee

    Washington has become what we fought a revolution against over 225 years ago - an overreaching, overtaxing, oligarchy. And the American people are fed up with it!

    We're taking our country back from the political elites like Obama, Pelosi and Reid. We're fighting for our freedom and liberty, and November 2010 will be a landslide victory for the conservative movement.

    April 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. Our nation is divided and on the brink

    Now why would anyone distrust our government? Perhaps the bribery that took place to get the "Health Care" bill passed was a huge factor, not to mention such people as Pelosi, Reid, Frank, etc. are currently operatives for the most liberal, anti-American president we ever had.

    April 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Russ

    The last line of this article sums it up. Unfortunately both house of Congress think that enacting their near sighted ideals into law is representative of the people. It is no longer the case. The average American is ignored and whatever lobbyist puts up the most money, buys the laws that are created. Our wonderful Judical branch recently ensured that will continue with their ruling on political donations. In the mean time it's a battle between parties to see who can block the other party from doing what their lobbyist want and screw the American people who have to live with the result. Definitely, at the least need severe term limits on all members of the Congress.

    April 19, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |

    Most of this is fed by the constant GOP lies. There should be a requirement that once elected you must tell the truth about what is in and what is not in a bill. This making stuff up and telling outright lies to the American people must stop. As for right now, the GOP is going to be surprised in November when they lose seats. The party of NO will be told NO in November. They don't understand that they were sent to Washington to work for the people, not just sit back without any ideas and vote NO to everything, any horses ass can do that, come to think of it they are. Remember, in November vote NO to the party of NO.

    April 19, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Randy

    If somebody blames this on people being racist because we have black president I think I'll be sick. But you know it will happen.

    April 19, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. gary

    It's no surprise people don't trust our federal government with the marxist obozo and his clowns pelosi and reid at the helm.

    April 19, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. Barbara Independent in NY

    Of course we don't trust the government. We're dealing with a war in Iraq that our government lied us into. The Republicans are in bed with Wall Street bankers. Our president is a good man but still believes that the politicians in Washington are there representing the American people. Lobbyists founded the "grassroots tea party" movement and the Republicans are treating them as a legitimate party. Lying has become so prevalent that some politicians like, Boehner, McConnell, McCain and friends shouldn't appear on camera because their acting skills are weak. I could go on but I've already wasted enought time.

    April 19, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Doug,lib jersey

    Expected when the President is following Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals line by line.

    Those who support him bite off the fingers of people who they disagree with and slam women down to the ground, breaking their legs.

    To be exected I guess when the president says things like this:

    "If they bring a knife to the fight, we'll bring a gun.!"

    National Socialists are very unstable, Mr. Obama need not rile them up.

    April 19, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  16. NotFooledTX

    I have a problem with incompetent government – the most recent example was the bush administration. Yeah, that would sour my opinion too. But I see a change with Obama – and a change for the better. Good governance and solid leadership – it's about time, it's been too long since we've had competent leadership like we do under Obama. It'll take some time to change public opinion.

    April 19, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  17. gl

    Thanks to the Republicans scare tactic. Republicans continue to demoized the government everyday and you wonder why.

    April 19, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. Pat F

    I can help you out on the "why" of this distrust: Democrats are engaged in a money and power grab worthy of Hugo Chavez.

    As that great Republican Abraham Lincoln said: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. As the country will say to Democrats this November, to quote The Who: WE WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!

    April 19, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. gl

    No single factor causes the general public distrust in government, the report said.

    Sorry, that a lie. Republicans demoizing the government on a daliy basis is one reason.

    April 19, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. more distrust to come

    that distrust is also compiled with hatred for this government. Has any one noticed the rise in militant organizations? Have you noticed the rise in life threatening emails to govenment officials? I have read hundreds of thousands of comments on yahoo and other sites that have spoke of their hatred for the governement of this country in the last two years. I sincerily believe that hate and distrust will increase by leaps and bounds. and the government brought it on themselves.

    April 19, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. honest abe

    another poll from idaho and alaska. i'm surprised cnn isn't saying that 100% of people in America are against the gov't.

    April 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. Lynn

    Once again I will say this. "Who do these poll takers call?" In my 70+ yrs nobody has ever called for my opinion. They wouldn't call only areas they think will sway the poll outcome would they? Geez, how dumb do they think the public is to buy their poll outcome? I'd say pretty dumb.

    April 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. gl

    The Obama
    administration received a more positive job rating, with 40 percent saying it was doing an excellent or good job, it said.
    Why do these polls continue to tell us want we already know. It is Congress the people dislike, but these polls keep trying to mislead people.

    April 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  24. diridi

    I think america needs to bring back "Manufacturing jobs..." North Carolina had Furniture factoris, Textile Factories, all gone, NY had shoe factories all gone...what is America making, nothing...boys, and gals...?????shame..shame...we also need to increase forestry, and concentrate on wild life...planet is wariming....wake up....stringent immigration laws needed...we do not need too many residencie slots, we need more PAs, and NPs in rural area to practice medine...ok...just do this..we will be fine...we need to strengthen dollar with Indian currencies, and china currencie...they are the one manupulating the money...wake up...

    April 19, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Dan

    Where was this poll when Bush drove the country over a cliff.

    April 19, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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