CNN Poll: Trust in government at all time low
September 28th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: Trust in government at all time low

Washington (CNN) - The public's trust in the federal government has dropped to an all-time low, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday morning indicates that only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what's right just about always or most of the time. Last September that figure was at 25 percent. Seventy-seven percent of people questioned say they trust the federal government only some of the time, and an additional eight percent volunteer that they never trust the government to do what's right.

In the past five years the number who say they trust the government "always" or "most of the time" was usually in the low-to-mid 20's. Before the recession hit that number was usually in the low-to-mid 30's, and slightly more than a decade ago, it was in the high 30's or occasionally just over 40 percent.

"The previous all-time low was 17 percent, set in the summer of 1994," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Before the Watergate scandal, a majority of Americans said they trusted the government always or most of the time, but since 1974 that has happened only during a brief period in 2001 immediately after the 9/11 terrorism attacks."

The survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, during the congressional standoff between Democrats and Republicans over disaster relief funding threatened to possibly force a federal government shutdown. An agreement preventing a government shutdown was reached late Monday night.

The poll indicates a partisan divide when it comes to trust.

"Not surprisingly, Democrats are more likely to trust the federal government than Republicans, but even among Democrats, more than two-thirds say they rarely trust the government," adds Holland.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from September 23-25, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: Congress • Polls
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Jerry

    CNN, are you people nuts or what!? You DID NOT have to conduct a poll to find this out. If you folks would just take your blinders off and stop sticking up for President NObama and other Democratic morons, you would have the answers that you seeking.

    Oh well...I guess that is too much to ask.

    Yes, as luck would have it, I am a life-long Democrat!

    America, stay tuned... No more smoke and mirrors. NObamamites, YES, you can come out of the woodwork now.

    September 28, 2011 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  2. Name king

    Hey I don't understand these people. They voted folks in in the last election who they knew would shut down the government, now they are acting surprised and now they are frustrated. Hey they had two years to know if they elected the tea baggers what would happen, Because they knew the tea baggers didn't care nothing about policies, their kamakasi plan was to go in and disrupt and get rid of the first black president no matter if they have to take the country down with him.

    September 28, 2011 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  3. auruin

    you know what? i trust the motives of government far more then i trust the motives of business... governments want to govern... business was to make a profit.... are problem is that we have allowed business the reins of government... they have infected government with lobbyists.... they have found out that its more profitable running congress rather then running an honest business... we need to completely change on how money works here in america.... we shouldn't be spending billions of dollars on political campaigns and lobbying.... the strength of of a man's defense in a court room should be based on facts and principles and not on how much he can afford to spend on a team of lawyers...

    what we need to do is make government more effective... not dismantling it... why government is so ineffective is because its been corrupted and infected by those that value money over virtue... if america wants to remain competing in this world, we need a strong and effective federal government... thats why we see europe, africa, the middle east, and china trying to unify and strengthen themselves within... if america continues to allowing the weakening of the federal government, then we weaken our ability compete with the rest of the world....

    September 28, 2011 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  4. Anthony

    This is after Republicans won control of the House. If we put people who don't like government in charge of the government, and the only things they do are forcing budget stalemate and government shutdowns, what else do you expect?

    September 28, 2011 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  5. TomInRochNY

    With Rs, and especially TPers, causing havoc in congress this poll it no surprise. What would be surprising is if the people who support them, the people who boo gay service men and protest at service men's furnerals, got out of the way and let the rest of us work together to fix this mess. I put the chances of that right up there with walking on water.

    September 28, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It isn't a huge surprise. The tea people have stopped many chances for compromise in Congress that would have kept the approval rating up. I believe that the members of Congress need to think more of the future of the country. Many members seem to thinking of just what they can get politically.

    September 28, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  7. Soni

    REALLY! You think!!!!!!! No one should be surprised about this. It has been brewing that way for at least 3 years

    September 28, 2011 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  8. Charles


    September 28, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  9. James Johanson

    I trust that our government's elected officials will always do what is in their personal, financial best interest. They care nothing about the country or the citizens. They only act against their own financial interests if they feel their jobs are in jepardy.

    September 28, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  10. Polemos

    I like these low percentages. The less we come to rely on the federal government for every inconvenience, the better off we'll be.

    September 28, 2011 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  11. Sean

    what our government is good at is to support dictators of the world, start stupid wars, waste precious lives, and spent billions of tax dollars in hand outs to the zionist regime of Israel and other unfriendly governments while our unemployment is over 9%, public schools are falling apart, 90 million have no insurance, borders are basically open, illegal immigrations is costing billions and more. Put your house in order first before meddling in affairs of ther nations. That 15% who trust the us government are the employees of the government most likely!!

    September 28, 2011 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  12. Jasie

    We cannot trust the gov't b/c our gov't is anti-American. Obama has cut our production of oil while giving billions to Brazil and Mexico to drill "for us." He is trying to make the Gibson company send jobs to India. Immelt has sent many jobs to China, yet, he is an advisor to the president. We need a president who will make America job 1.

    September 28, 2011 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  13. Rich

    The obvious solution to this problem is massive tax cuts for the super rich.

    September 28, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. fixingstupid

    The more government "tries" to do for us, the more they fail. People are tired of bureaucrats running every aspect of our lives. We are more capable of running our own lives.

    September 28, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  15. Badly-Bent

    I would have more trust in them if only they would reign in free trade!

    September 28, 2011 08:08 am at 8:08 am |