Survey Finds Trust in Government 'Can't Get Much Lower'

Jan 7, 2015

Trust in the state and federal governments have hit “historically low levels,” according to the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.

Of the 1,004 voters and nonvoters polled across the country following the November 2014 election, 21.7 percent said they trusted the federal government, while 20.3 percent said they had confidence in the state. Local governments were seen as the most trustworthy with about 40 percent approval.

“Pollsters have been asking questions about trust in government for decades and it’s been typically below 50 percent,” Political Science Professor Philip Harold said.

But according to Harold, the ratings have never been this poor.

“The numbers improved in the ’90s under Bill Clinton and reached the 50 percent level,” he said. “But under President George W. Bush and President Obama, it’s really gone down to these historically low levels.”

But trust doesn’t seem to matter when voters cast their ballots. According to the poll, about 65 percent of respondents said they chose a candidate based on shared values and philosophies, while about 50 percent said they chose someone “who appeared reasonable.” About 30 percent of voters chose a candidate out of trust.

According to Harold, this mistrust stems from the president.

“Three out of five voters saw the election as dealing with a response to President Obama’s policies,” he said. “Of the people who saw the election that way, 37 percent opposed the president’s policies and 23 percent supported the president’s policies.”

According to the poll, jobs and the economy (65.9 percent), healthcare (61.9 percent), immigration (52 percent) and government spending (45.3 percent) were the top issues for voters last year. And, while the survey indicates bipartisan agreement on these issues, voters weren’t in line with President Obama.

“The election on jobs and the economy and healthcare, it didn’t favor President Obama…” Harold said. “They (voters) were going in a different direction from what the president has been proposing and doing.”

The RMU Polling Institute is funded in part by Trib Total Media.