Mar 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Most Americans don't trust the government

Americans’ views of the federal government
Data: Partnership for Public Service and Freedman Consulting; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

More than half of Americans do not trust the federal government and don't think it helps people like them, according to a new survey by Partnership for Public Service and Freedman Consulting.

Between the lines: Distrust in institutions is widespread, but there are also stark partisan differences. Three out of five Democrats say they trust the government to do the right thing, compared to fewer than three in 10 Republicans.

Why it matters: Trust or distrust in government can have an impact on American lives, including public health and election outcomes.

  • The survey found people vaccinated against COVID-19 were more likely to say they trusted the government (46%) than those who were not vaccinated (29%).
  • And 43% of people who said they voted in 2020 also said they trusted the government, as opposed to 25% of those who said they did not vote.

What they're saying: “Restoring trust in the federal government, the one institution with the ability to deal with our nation’s most critical social, economic and foreign policy challenges, is essential to the health of our democracy,” said Partnership for Public Service president and CEO Max Stier.

By the numbers: When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with various descriptions of the federal government, three in four respondents said they thought it was "too bureaucratic" and "wasteful."

  • On the other hand, 69% said it was corrupt.

Yes but: When asked about specific government agencies, people tended to have more favorable opinions.

  • The National Park Service, Social Security Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the Census Bureau all won over more than 60% of respondents, who said they had at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the agencies.
  • And 82% also said they had a favorable view of the military as a whole.

Methodology: Partnership for Public Service surveyed 2,301 U.S. adults from Oct. 18-24, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2.2 points.

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