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. roger

    Trust those that their umbilical cords are attached to the Koch's and other ilk like them. No way! The last good Republican was Ike.

    August 8, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. NC_Right

    Brought to you by President "um uh um uh" Obama

    August 8, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. RD Blakeslee

    "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 important! Libertarians need to realize it isn't just big government that's oppressing us.

    Teddy Roosevelt was wrong when, during his trust-busting days vs. Standard Oil, he said he wasn't against bigness per se.

    Bigness equals power, power corrupts and ways must be found to cut all power centers down to humane size.

    August 8, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. Dan StPeter

    When those who write, and/or are charged with overseeing our laws, don't have the self respect to demand that they are enforced, then they lack the moral capacity to lead. No new bill, enforce the lies you told us in 1986 for a decade and then we may discuss 'reforms'...Our kids and Grand-kids deserve a sovereign nation to grow up in and those charged with keeping our nation sovereign, are refusing to perform their oath to do really is that simple.

    August 8, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. CE

    Government is suppose to "lead" a country into a secure and sound future, and yet, make stable decisions that are to the benefit of the people of a country... This so called government is yet to show that it is capable of doing so. The inept actions of mindless and deceitful civil servants have led to the MURDER of our own citizens, while politicians argue. That is NOT a government.

    August 8, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. Jack

    Was just watching the movie; "Red Dawn" from the 80's. Ironic, it's 2014 and a majority of Americans fear our President will attack its citizens with Dept. of Homeland agents and put them into camps or kill them, instead of invading Communists as in "Red Dawn". Now the Communist threat is our own gov't Democrat Party.

    August 8, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Zack

    Well lets see – just under Obama's watch we've seen Fast and Furious, IRS political targeting, Benghazi, Solyndra, race based selective prosecutions at the justice dept, bribes of senators in exchange for Obama-Care votes, the mess at the Veteran's Administration, and a government shutdown that was selectively applied and intentionally meant to make the people feel pain to exert political pressure.
    Gee – why don't Americans trust their government. I wonder.....

    August 8, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Can't Do Congress !

    August 8, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. MCW

    It's no coincidence that this is happening under an obama administration.

    August 8, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. 111karlquick111

    When the president lies (regularly) then flies about to raise funds from RICH people who benefit from their connection to government, HOW CAN WE TRUST GOVERNMENT?

    August 8, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Peted

    Iraq and Afghanistan was declared won by Obama! Why waste money and blood on countries that have been pacified and hearts and minds have been won over by Obama? Get out of there ASAP!

    August 8, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Would You Look at That

    So much for being the most open and transparent administration in the history of the presidency... You'd earn more trust by doing what you say...

    August 8, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Jack

    In today's Democrat Party and Obama Administration, you are an "American" if you are black, gay, lesbian, Muslim, Communist, Illegal, welfare recipient, drug addict or criminal. If you are white and straight, you are the enemy.

    August 8, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Redant

    How can anybody trust the government?

    August 8, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. morebs

    for everyone that is going to sit here and blame Obama, better understand there is a bigger agenda involved with our government and you are falling for it hook line and sinker. I suggest that all Americans stop the bickering amongst each other, do some research and see exactly what is going on.

    August 8, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  16. g da

    the only thing republicans work on is giving away bombs and guns and bullets or war ,they will not sit down and talk about any thing else

    The only thing democrats work on is taking your money and giving to their low life voters too damn lazy to work for it, they will not sit down and talk about anything else.

    August 8, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  17. Ruf231

    This is great news! We shouldn't trust the gov't. No party has all the answers. That's exactly why our gov't was formed in the first place. Our founding fathers knew gov't couldn't be trusted so it was put into the hands of the people. We the people need to take it back and when we don't like what we see, we stand up and throw the bums out of gov't and start a new. The gov't should be so scared of we the people that wouldn't even think about crossing us.

    August 8, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. Tom l

    How did I forget to mention Rosetta Teatroll???

    August 8, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Sniffit

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

    You GOPers/Teatrolls really do think everyone is just plain stupid, eh? The only reason RWNJs run around making that demand is because they can't win state-wide contests for Senate seats in a lot of states, particularly ones in which the minority population has risen and continues to rise at a much faster rate than the white population, so they want to hand the decision about who is Senator to the state legislature, where the GOP/Teatrolls are more frequently able to gain control due to the geography of districting. You guys are all for democracy until the votes don't go your way, and then it's no holds barred on trying to make things less democratic, less based on majority rule, and more about trying to rig the system to make an end-run around democracy.

    August 8, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Jack

    If Republicans ever do get back into power. First order of business is to round up the media who have been covering up for Obama, suppressing any news which makes Obama look bad, ramping up news which makes Republicans look bad and ignoring Obama's corrupt and fake background, and arrested and jail them for treason. I remember the last few months of Bush's Administration, when the media wrote and showed stories about the high gas prices. The gas prices have been just as high and higher the entire time of Obama's administration and not one story on high gas prices.

    August 8, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Tom l

    Sniffit says:
    August 8, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm
    ” 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.


    Says the guy who endorses speaking 840 million on a website.

    By the way, you are conflating 2 totally different issues.

    August 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. Jim

    Watetgate is laughable compared to Benghazi, IRS and NSA snooping. Nixon spied on the DNC. Obozo spies on all of us every single day.

    August 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "The Tree of Liberty may need watering."

    We'll get right on that as soon as the GOP/Teatrolls are done peeing on it.

    August 8, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    Man, it's raining Teatroll sockpuppets and dittoheads in here.

    August 8, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. soul leister

    We are all getting tired of smacking these towel head clowns (aka whack a mole) down when ever they crawl out of their holes and laughably declare their superiority and myopic endgame plans. Time to turn the sand into glass as there appears to be no end to their stupidity... we are all sick and tired of unshaven loud mouths threatening our children's lives. If politicians have their way this manufactured problem will never go away and ensure their job security and unchecked access to taxpayer money to throw down rat holes and line their pockets with (maybe we should start lining them up here, just to let Khalid know we mean business and they are public enemy number one (with a bullet to the head coming to a theater near them in the immediate future))... or we can continue to talk talk talk and not solve anything.

    August 8, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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