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. Scott

    Only one word describes the American Government: Treacherous (Merriam Webster):
    : not able to be trusted : showing that someone cannot be trusted

    Over and over, like a whore of a spouse, who favors only their own desires and abandons their family, is the American politician. Divorce is no longer an option.

    August 8, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Edword

    The big-govt democrat bullies know they have the cover of their toadies in the media – there's NO WAY a republican admin could ever imagine perpetrating these sames outrages they get away with on a daily basis.

    August 8, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. iambicpentamaster

    If you believe your government, you can trust your government - period.

    August 8, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Tony

    The lesson, as always: if you are losing trust in the government, stop electing people who have pledged to break the government and make you lose trust in the government.

    August 8, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. kaneda

    And the problem is we keep voting for the same crooks in to office...

    August 8, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. azrael777

    People do not trust the government??!?!? Shock report ahhahaha

    August 8, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Wizzer

    Watergate made us more aware to not trust what the government does or tells us. Obama has taken it to a new low with all his "real" scandals. Now we have more people at HHS deleting emails and not following the law.

    August 8, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    " Where will they ever find enough money from Americans to fund their "goodness"??"

    Where will we ever find enough money to satiate the wealthy's need for more, such that some of it actually trickles down for once? THAT is the question you should ask. Your money isn't disappearing and being wasted on the programs that spend to help others. It's disappearing and being wasted on the policies that have widened the wealth gap for 60 years.

    August 8, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    And trust for the government supporting media who only parrot's what the state department tells them to is also at an all time low!
    Whether it's CNN supporting the pro-government/high taxation social policy agenda, or FOX supporting the pentagram's pro support/ pro war for Israel agenda, they all seem to just repeat what government wants us to do.

    August 8, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. dag

    Re-electing career politicians that have been in part of the Washington establishment for decades is the the definition of insanity, but idiots still do it.

    August 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. Veritas

    "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

    August 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  12. William Dorritt


    REPEAL THE 17TH AMENDMENT, so that States can fire Senators at will.

    We have a President who thinks he is a King, and a Senate for Life that resembles the Barons and Dukes in a Feudal System. Today, the Senate candidate with most TV advertising money is the one likely to win, influence for sale.

    August 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. cb

    well with the current admin with the daily lying and hiding evidence of wrong doing. from fast and furious , the irs scandal and of course benghazi and of course obamacare you are surprised by that number. only at cnn , msnbc would it be confusing! whats worse our so called media rooted out nixon while todays media just shrug their shoulders at the illegality shown by the admin. which is disgusting! you used to be news now your just bought buy the government!

    August 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  14. jimmyva18

    The Tree of Liberty may need watering.

    August 8, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. Barb

    This gargantuan government exists only to protect its own existence. They take oaths on the Holy Bible with no intention of keeping those oaths. Their loyalty is to the UN, which should be abandoned because of its corruption. Because of their relativism, every move they make is political. It is painful to listen to the lies and parsing of words in order to fool the public. Along with the progressive journalists "club" they have succeeded in making America into what they believed she was. Just don't forget who is the father of all lies: lucifer. Saul Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to him.

    August 8, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Gunderson

    Uh, Well,
    The Lad in the White House says he has a Pen and a Phone. And if the people don't go along with him he will go it alone! His Poll Numbers are at the bottom of the River but on he goes. He is the result of 100 years of Liberal Politics unhinged. It's what people voted for. If you like it, fine. Keep voting for it.

    August 8, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Silence DoGood

    The special club of GOP Congressmen vowed and swore to break the government by stopping and saying NO to anything the president wanted, regardless of whether it helped the People or not.

    If I took my car to a mechanic that had sworn to break my car instead of fix it, I would find a new mechanic.

    August 8, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    "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."

    That's is important – Teddy Roosevelt was wrong when, in his trust-busting days versus Standard Oil, he said he wasn't against bigness per se.

    Libertarians need to recognize it's not just big government that's oppressing us.

    Bigness per se equals power, and ways have to be found to cut all that power down to humane size.

    August 8, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. excuse my rant

    Rudy NYC

    "Makes you wonder whether we should invent a word or phrase for people who are essentially analogous to economic Uncle Toms with respect to our would-be plutocrat masters of the universe overlords. Hmmmm..."scab" is already taken in another context, but it's the closest one I can think of at the we'll have to be creative."
    How about "thralls"?

    I vote for Cousin Cletuses.

    August 8, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  20. BDnSC

    Why should anyone believe one word that comes out of this SOB's mouth? One lie after another and the media keeps blowing hot air up his skirt.
    You can keep your healthcare, your doctor, gonna save you $2500 bucks, on and on ad nauseum.
    Oh yes, let's not forget Harry Reid and Obama blaming it all on the Republicans all while refusing to allow 321 Republican bills to even be discussed.

    This regime makes Nixon look like a Saint!

    August 8, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. rc33

    The level of disdain our elected officials have for the citizens of America is staggering. And to think I used to believe most of them were honorable people..
    Far as I'm concerned, that ship has sailed, never to return.

    August 8, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. T Jackson

    We are poorly served by politicians AND journalist. I trust neither group. Our country's confidence is shaken and all the above mentioned groups care about is the asinine political ping pong going on in DC. The President's job is to lead and bring people together...he doesn't. He's an incompetent ideologue. The Congresses job is to legislate, compromise, and make this country what the Founder's envisioned it to be...they don't. They a pampered elitists who are out of touch. The press has a job to be skeptical, objective, and inquisitive...they aren't. They are partisan, lazy, and sensationalistic.

    August 8, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  23. Gonzo Rex

    Obama has open borders, he wants America and its people to die....just because he's black
    Solution: Unseat and jail, the goon on Dereliction of duty, perjury and treason.

    August 8, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |

    Guns Over People teatard domestic terrorists have destroyed American government. They brag about it constantly.

    August 8, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Silence DoGood

    @Harry Shell
    ISIS says that the flag of Allah will fly at the White House. Under any other president – even Carter – I'd have laughed at barbarians as insignificant fleas. But under Obama? I think they not only have a fighting chance; I think they have allies in this Administration.
    Whoa! Tin foil out in droves today! I thought the "Obama is Muslim" got filed right after "Birther" but we may be looking at some Birther hold outs here.

    August 8, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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