Home 2020 Election Three-quarters of Americans distrust the government

Three-quarters of Americans distrust the government

The U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise in Washington (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
The U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise in Washington (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

A new poll shows that 73 percent of Americans distrust the decisions made by the federal government – a number that has been steadily increasing throughout the last two administrations.

At its highest point, which occurred during President Obama’s first term, 80 percent of Americans lacked faith in the federal government. While former President George W. Bush fared slightly better, his administration witnessed a steady decline in trust that began in 2002, according to the new data from the Pew Research Center.

The data, which was collected from a survey conducted in January, shows that all demographics and political groups have seen a rise in government distrust.

“However, there are disparities. More than twice as many Hispanics as whites (44 percent vs. 20 percent) trust the federal government, and more blacks (38 percent) than whites trust the government,” Pew Research writes about the data.

Those with a higher rate of government distrust include older Americans, independents and Republicans.

Distrust in the federal government has seen its highest numbers in the past decade. During former President Bill Clinton’s two terms in office, Americans increasingly had a favorable view of the US government. Right before Clinton left office, nearly 60 percent of Americans trusted the US government, while only 40 percent had lost faith. Trust was also particularly high, nearing 80 percent, during former President John F. Kennedy’s term.

But not only has trust in the federal government steadily declined since Obama took office, but public perception has also gone down, particularly among Democrats. Only 33 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of the federal government and 69 percent said that Washington should only conduct operations that can’t be handled by individual states.

“Since Barack Obama’s first year in office, public assessments of the federal government dropped nine points,” Pew’s press release stated, citing findings from a survey conducted in April of 2012. “Most of the change was among Democrats and independents, as the level of favorable views of government among Republicans was already low.”

Pew Research found that the highest favorability ratings were of local governments that were closest to Americans’ homes. More than 60 percent of Americans said they had a favorable view toward their local government, with 52 percent having faith in their state government.

But over the past decade, favorability ratings of federal, state and local governments have all been on the decline, during both the Bush and Obama administrations.

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