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. g da

    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 |

    Didn't you say on another thread you made 80gs a year. Damn dude you make toooo much money, those of us who work at mcDonald's think you should let us have oh maybe half of dat.

    August 8, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. Carlos

    Daaa! The bigger the government gets, the less trustworthy it is! What's so hard about that?

    August 8, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Lincoln Robertson

    Yeah, Nixon was 40 years ago. So why can't you resist bringing that up? Sheesh...

    August 8, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. maroon

    When you see so many Ds in state legislatures going to prison and being indicted for bribery, gun running, campaign fraud, and other crimes, you have to wonder what the D next to their name stands for , D=Defendant is a better description.
    Emails erased, lost , etc. from so many departments, stonewalling of open records request , spying on reporters, lies, defying court orders to appear before Congress, you get the idea of where the rot starts, at the head of the Party, Obama.

    August 8, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. soul leister

    Here we go again, the nobel peace prize president is killing more civilians with bombs (didn't he just whine and complain about Israel doing that?). Obama has bombed more countries (and killed more kids) than the Israelis but oddly hasn't returned his foolishly pre-awarded nobel peace prize (now also an affirmative action award not requiring any actual peace progress).

    August 8, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. Hurricane0721

    I'm pretty conservative politically. Things in our government have gotten so bad, and have become so corrupt, that I no longer trust our politicians left or right. It's unfortunate, but I think things in our government have gotten to the point where I believe that the only way to truly restore the people's faith in government is by something radical or even horrific, like a revolution or government overthrow. You can call me pessimistic, but I am starting to honestly believe that's the only way true faith in our government will be restored.

    August 8, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. lonemountain

    The media inundates and brainwashes the populous with their progressive/liberal bias and then periodically takes polls to measure their success.

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

    During the Bush administration, my investments and equity in my home dropped ~40%. Thanks to President Obama, I have all my equity back and my investments have totally recovered. Thanks Mr. President!

    August 8, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    "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."

    This is pure leftist hogwash. You telling me Watergate had more impact than Warren Commission and/or Vietnam??? Having lived through it, not buying that for a moment.

    August 8, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Water

    I know my trust is at the lowest, dont think I can ever vote Democrats at least in the near term. Which sucks because we really dont get much of a choice most of the time. Sometimes I think we vote for dumb or dumber.

    August 8, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. DawgDad

    "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."

    This is pure leftist hogwash. You telling me Watergate had more impact than the Warren Commission or Vietnam??? Having lived through those times, not buying this line at all.

    August 8, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. it must be said

    Why should I trust a government that won't do one of the very few things it is charged to do? Protect and defend this country and that includes protecting and defending our borders. Without borders we have no country, no sovereignty.

    Our children's future is in the hands of whatever hoard wishes to charge over the border next. Next year it could be 50 million Chinese that decide China is too violent and storm our borders seeking citizenship.

    People should NEVER trust government blindly as many on the left do. They become blind with power. Over two hundreds of laws, rules and regulations at a local, state and federal level, every one of which eats away at liberty and freedom.

    August 8, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. El Conquistador

    Watergate was "just politics" compared to the atrocities of the VA and the strong-arm tactics of the IRS under this Administration. The cover up of Watergate only involved a few people, but the cover-up at the IRS, at the VA, and even the shenanigans regarding Obamacare's Website roll-out debacle involve hundreds of separate cover-ups in at least three different departments, and probably Just-us Department under Holder too. You KNOW he'll look the other way as long as Obama is at the top!
    If only the Senate were Republican. Then perhaps the truth would be allowed to come out.

    August 8, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Rolling Block Shooter

    In order of least trusted to most trusted:

    The President, administration employee's, Senate, Democrats/Party, US government employee's, House Democrats, House Republicans! The Democrats and their party are the enemy!

    August 8, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Orwell's Nephew 4 times removed

    Everyone always presumed a 1984 scenario would come under a Republican. Instead a chameleon Democrat with the support of his party is ushering in the period.

    August 8, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. WWII

    I am over 70 and I saw a lot of it on TV. It was something that politicians did back then and before. They still lie, look at our present President.

    August 8, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC


    If you believe your government, you can trust your government – period.
    Good call. There's a demographic out there that seem to think that government lost control of itself the Barack Obama was sworn in. The result of which has left them literally unable to trust "the government".

    Here's the problem, the way Sigmund Rudy sees it. People are imagining what the government might do because they are fearful of something. They have genuine fears because there are genuine reasons for those fears. They are guilty of harboring certain kinds of hateful thoughts, possibly even acting upon them at some time. The thought of what they would do in that position of power is what scares them. They know that they would act upon their hate, and they fear that that is what will happen to them. Guilt.

    August 8, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Mike

    With Nixon, we had surveillance of political dissidents, the threat to misuse the IRS, an implausible explanation for missing evidence, and the "imperial Presidency." Much of that predated Nixon, but came to light during Watergate. With Carter we had an inept domestic policy, and a foreign policy with what most considered a misguided view of America's interests. With Obama, we have the same negatives without the positives of either Nixon or Carter, plus a feckless Congress (contrast Howard Baker, et al), a overtly political Judiciary, and a complicit press. 13% is generous.

    August 8, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. Rolling Block Shooter

    Media Follow-up:

    Least trusted: NY Times, WA Post, LA Times, AP, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN (though MSNBC & CNN (though CNN & MSNBC are inconsequential) and ANY actor who professes to be poltically intellegent.

    August 8, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. itstoolate

    I am 71 years old and I have voted every year I was able. I have seen it all, I was not a racist, and I did not think that congress is as corrupt as it is. Since the satan obammy, this country is going to the dogs. The man is evil, the man is a traitor, why is he not in jail....I will tell you why, congress is in bed with him. They are in it for the power and the money. This country is very close to a civil war, why do you think they just purged the brass in the army. When civil war breaks out, the DC criminals, from obammy on down will be eliminated. Then we can start over again. We have to purge the vermin in the DC Cesspool.....

    August 8, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Horseshoe

    Is my country, the USA, the single most dangerous, evil, and corrupt nation in the entire world? Most definitely. We murder and lie to our own people to justify corrupt over-reaching government actions. If there is a finer example of corrupt government in existence I want to hear about it.

    August 8, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. Otis

    I don't think obama's masters tell him that he is unpopular and is a f-up. He still thinks it's 2008 standing in front of the Greek pillars and the idiots in the crowd are crying. Yeah, they're crying now that's for sure.

    August 8, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Candice

    This administration has proven itself to be UNTRUSTWORTHY. Untrustworthy with resources, time, work and so much more. Harry Reid gathers his millions while not working.

    Over 370 bills have not been addressing the Senate and many came from the House with bi-partisan votes.

    Obama... well, let's bring on Benghazi, IRS, PPACA, and the border.

    You expect us to remain Law abiding when our president (and I use that term loosely) is not following the law of the land.

    You're dam(n) right there is no trust in this administrations. Obama and his cronies have earned our disdain!

    August 8, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Rick M

    The biggest issue I see here is the bureaucracies have become politicized. Instead of doing their job, enforcing the law, they've become an arm of the party in power. That's what kills trust.

    August 8, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Yes that thing is Loaded

    Our Fore Fathers would already be shooting Jimmyva18.

    August 8, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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