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

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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. ChrisCO

    Welcome to the party CNN. Time for Libtards to rethink their position. Where will they ever find enough money from Americans to fund their "goodness"??

    August 8, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Dennis R. Torii, Jr.

    It is time to think outside the box and actually do what we know must be done. Create The New World Order in the form that ensures that Freedom and Life continue. As a former Army veteran (Nuclear Artillery-Special Weapons), and I wrote the best Plans for a New World Order in most people's opinion. I am not a normal human being in that I had college level math scores at age six. I also hold all the original U.S. Patents for monitored firearm storage. I am against gun control except for reasonable options. I am against Progressivism and am ultra conservative. I am a Japanese/ European American with a wife from Trinidad and we have three young children. Google: Dennis R. Torii, Jr. for the Plans.

    August 8, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. LoisLerner

    No politician has LIED so directly and so often to Americans as Obama. You can keep your plan, it was caused by a video, not even a smidgeon are all quotes that people instantly recognize as disgusting LIES from a very sick person...

    August 8, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Bud Zucker

    The real problem started when elected politicians started receiving a paycheck. When you start rewarding people for their ambition for power, nothing else matters except getting re-elected so you can keep pulling the strings of power. If politicians were unpaid and true servants of the people, the incentive for those who lust for power would be diminished albeit not completely eliminated.

    August 8, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Dennis R. Torii, Jr.

    It is time to round file the Parties Now!!!

    August 8, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  6. rockonthebeach

    I have lived through Roosevelt to Obama. This is the worst. Carter was pretty bad and inept, but Obama is over the pail. I am 77 years and when I was about 16 I knew not to trust the Government in most things

    August 8, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. Indiana Mike

    Nixon was forced to resign for a failed attempt to accomplish what Obama has actually been doing for almost 6 yrs now. Because raacism. Skin color in todays America indemnifies certain people from any wrongdoing or lawbreaking. IF you are the correct color.

    August 8, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. Tex Taylor

    Each passing year, not only does my trust in government wane, the more I'm convinced our governments (local, state, federal) could simply care less what I believe or what I expect either. Why people would demand more of it or remotely believe this bloated, corrupt, feckless federal government will fix what ails us is beyond me.

    August 8, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. shazamiam

    This poll does not exist and it never happened. The results were on a hard drive that crashed.

    August 8, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Dude1394

    I am almost 60 years old. I have gone from being a staunch supporter of our government to almost an outright seperatist. I can't trust prosecutors, I can't trust cops, I surely cannot trust democrats and I barely trust republicans.

    The media cannot even be close to being believed, the white house press secretary sounds like Baghdad Bob up there and the press just yawn.

    The democrats would allow Obama to become dictator if they could get their way...

    Very perilous times.

    August 8, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. Dennis R. Torii, Jr.

    For New World Order written by veteran, Google: Dennis R. Torii, Jr. The Left and Right love the Plans. There are no better plans out there because this is the One.

    August 8, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. Just Plain Rick

    Nixon's staff covered up a minor break in at a political enemy's office. Obama uses the IRS and other government agencies to stifle his political opposition, send guns to Mexican drug gangs, opens our borders to illegal immigrants and spies on Americans. And CNN thinks it's Nixon's fault for the current trust in government. Go figure.

    August 8, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. dan o

    CNN needs to look in the mirror

    August 8, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. MTB

    More like, "trust in Obama at all time low". Love how you try to protect the prez with the cover...

    August 8, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. grumpy ole man

    Sniffit, I would suggest chancre. Chancre: a firm, painless, non-itchy skin ulceration, most common symptom of primary SYPHILIS.

    August 8, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. truth

    enjoying the pro-Obama and pro-Romney buffoons argue over the internet..

    politicians will bury this great country.
    politicians are not leaders.
    fireman, engineers, businessmen and women, teachers, soldiers.. .. are leaders .. not these 800 x elected crap slingers

    August 8, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Government Waste Rules

    Impossible! People LOVE the wonderful Obama administration so filled with hope, change and transparency! RACISTS!

    August 8, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. Cntrlfrk

    I've never been so disgusted with a sitting president in my entire life. Obama and his party of hate preachers do nothing but divide the country and pit us all against each other so they can force their failed ideology upon us.

    I was a democrat for 15 years but will never vote for a democrat again until they purge the party of the far left ideologues and return to being a party that cared about the Working Class, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

    The current Republican Party is closer to what the democrats were 20 years ago and care more for the common man than the democrats have in years.


    August 8, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Defiant

    Obama has reduced America to a slum.

    August 8, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. rginarizona

    Trust in Government? Folly of the most brutal kind. NAZI Germany and Soviet Russia had their strong governments with Universal Health Care, Pensions–and death camps provided for full employment. Of course in this country when our police-local, state or Federal-kill the innocent we chalk it up as "oops-but if you could just see what we see".

    Government should not be trusted but kept on a short leash.

    August 8, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. VillageViking

    After the dozens of obama scandals, no surprise!

    August 8, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  22. DAH:(

    You've just been schooled in how to take very bad data and spin it the best way you can for the current corrupt administration... blame it all on something that happened decades ago, take no responsibility for the past 5.5 yrs and claim you're no worse than the corruption before you.

    August 8, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. We are living in odd times

    It is not just the Politicians who have let us down…in many cases it is the Government itself. People who are in the Government should be working for all of us. Scandals in the IRS, VA, NSA, EPA… are signs that our people who are supposed to serve everyone equally.... are not doing so. It does not matter if you are Liberal, Conservative or any other demographic…the general function of the system needs a house cleaning. We are like the Roman Empire more than people want to admit. Our “Pax Romana” is disintegrating.

    August 8, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Dennis R. Torii, Jr.

    It is time for the country to step into the Light of Reason together and apologize to one another for letting politics get in front of our better judgment. There is nothing acceptable about compromising for political reasons when the premises of both positions is rooted in politics and compromise. That is one of the reasons that we have a "Frankenstein Complex" of broken systems and governments causing societies to collapse due to corruption and inefficiency.

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

    American Citizen Poll: Trust in CNN at all-time low


    August 8, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
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