Trust: Do you trust the American people?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Trust
Clicking on this chart takes you to the Gallup website where you can read the entire Gallup report.

Clicking on this chart takes you to the Gallup website where you can read the entire Gallup report. (KEY TO THE CHART: Dark green represents “the American people” while light green is “Politicians.”)

Trust in government is way down, as we all know.  Poll after poll has tracked the lack of confidence we have in our political leaders and institutions.

What about trust in the American people?

Do you trust your fellow Americans to make good judgments about the issues facing our country?

About six of ten (61%) Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the American people “when it comes to making judgments under our democratic system about the issues facing our country,” according to a new Gallup poll.  About a third (33%) says they don’t have very much trust and confidence in the American people, with 6% saying none at all.

Here’s the kicker: 61% is the lowest level of trust and confidence since Gallup starting asking this question almost 40 years ago.  In 1974, 83% of Americans had a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the American people.  The peak was 1976 at 86%. Since then, the trend has been generally downward, slipping under 70% in 2010 and reaching its all-time low now.

Democrats have more trust and confidence in the American people, compared to Republicans and Independents.  But, as Gallup reports, “all three party groups are less trusting now than in the past.”

Are you surprised to learn that Americans’ trust in the American people has been declining?

What accounts for this downward trend?

Do you trust the American people?

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Trust: Is a Trust Gap opening between state and local leaders?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Trust
WE TRUST THESE FOLKS MOST OF ALL! At least that's what Gallup's new polling shows. Americans trust local officials more than national- and state-level officials. This Town Hall is in Munroe Falls, Ohio. (In public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

WE TRUST THESE FOLKS MOST OF ALL! At least that’s what Gallup’s new polling shows. Americans trust local officials more than national- and state-level officials. This Town Hall is in Munroe Falls, Ohio. (In public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Americans are losing trust and confidence in just about every institution—and even in the American people. (Take a look at Monday’s Part 1 in this series for more on that.)

Are there any institutions that Americans trust? For example, how much trust and confidence do you have in your state government—or in your local government?

The answer to these questions is fascinating because we are seeing a Trust Gap opening between those two levels. Americans apparently discern a real difference between their state capitol and their town hall.

Consider these attitudes Gallup recorded toward state officials: About six of ten Americans (62%) have a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in their state governments to handle state problems, according to a new Gallup poll. Over the years, the level of trust in state governments has been volatile. Recently, there’s a downward trend. But, it’s surprising to find that the current level of trust and confidence in state governments is the same as Americans reported in a 1972 Gallup poll.

And how do we view our town halls? About seven of ten Americans (71%) have a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in their local governments to handle local issues. Trust in local governments has been higher and lower in the past, but trust in local institutions doesn’t waver much over the years.

How does trust in state and local governments compare? I did a little arithmetic with Gallup’s numbers and found an interesting pattern: a Trust Gap. Americans used to have similar levels of trust in state and local governments, but in recent years there’s been a growing gap—Americans trust in local institutions is pretty stable, but trust in state governments is declining.

How much trust and confidence do you have in your state government to handle state-level problems?

How much trust and confidence do you have in your local government to handle local problems?

What accounts for the Trust Gap?

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Trust: How much do you trust Congress NOW?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Trust
Wikipedia has the complete list of U.S. government shutdowns. There have been

Wikipedia has the complete list of U.S. government shutdowns. There have been 18 of them since 1976. Click this image to see the entire list.

SHUTDOWN!

For the first time in 17 years, the federal government is shutting down. It’s ironic that it began on the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park. This national park and all others are now closed. All non-essential federal employees are furloughed. The Army-Navy game may be postponed or cancelled. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives just couldn’t come to an agreement that would have averted a shutdown.

As of today, no one knows how long this may last. Among the shutdowns since 1976, the shortest were 1 day. The longest was the 21-day shutdown in a dispute between President Clinton and a Republican Congress.

If this shutdown lasts 17 days, federal officials are telling us, the nation will run out of cash and may risk an even more disastrous hit to the nation’s credit rating.

How much trust and confidence do you have in Congress now?

Last month, only 34% of Americans reported that they had a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in Congress, according to a new Gallup poll. This low level of trust and confidence in the legislative branch of government has been about the same since 2011. The high water mark, in contrast, was May 1972 when Nixon was president. Then, 71% had a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in Congress.

In the same poll last month, a slight majority of Americans (51%) said that had trust and confidence in the executive branch of government headed by the president. This was neither the highest nor the lowest level of trust. The highest rating was garnered by Nixon in 1972 (73% had a great deal or a fair amount of trust in him). The low water mark was earned by George W. Bush, 42% in 2008.

Pundits and prognosticators are trying to predict who is going to take the hit in the opinion polls: Congress as a whole, the Senate versus the House, the president, Republicans versus Democrats.

How much trust and confidence do you have in Congress today?

Who do you blame for the shutdown?

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Trust: Do you trust … thyself?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Trust

Ralph Waldo EmersonMany Americans no longer trust the institutions that govern our lives. The failure of the Congress to reach an accord and the ensuing government shutdown is Exhibit #1. As one commentator said, America is starting to look like Italy—always in a state of crisis, always teetering on the edge of chaos.

So, who can we trust?

Are we left with just one source: ourselves?

Self-reliance is one of 10 core American values. According to my national surveys, more than 80% of Americans agree that “I would rather depend on myself than on others” and “I rely on myself most of the time.”

The value of self-reliance goes back to the founding of the nation. It was given eloquent form in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay, Self-Reliance, published in 1847. Consider the three main points from the Sage of Concord’s essay.

The self-contained genius: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”

Ignore the world: “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide…”

Trust yourself: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

Do you trust yourself?

Do Emerson’s words ring truer now than ever before?

Are we left with just one source to trust: ourselves?

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Trust: Angry at the government? What are you missing?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Trust
WHAT DO YOU MISS? Click this image for a Pew report on the sudden lack of federal data.

CLICK this image for a Pew report on the blackout of federal data.

Missing something?

Angry?

Frustrated?

Trust and confidence in our political institutions is necessary for a stable democracy, but these feelings are at low ebb. All week, we’ve discussed the issue of trust and confidence. We’ve seen how little Americans trust the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Americans have less confidence in state than local governments. And, Americans’ trust in the American people is at an all-time low. Perhaps the only thing left is to follow Emerson’s advice: Trust thyself.

Still, you may be wondering at the strength of a word like “angry.” But a recent Pew poll shows that most Americans do feel angry or frustrated at the federal government. And this poll was taken before the government shutdown. Overall, over three-quarters of the American people are either angry (26%) or frustrated (51%). Only 17% say they are basically content with the government.

Who’s the angriest? Conservative Republicans are, with 41% reporting that they are angry at the federal government. An additional 49% say they are frustrated. Moderate Republicans are angry and frustrated, too, but not at the same high level as their conservative brethren.

Liberal Democrats are the least angry, with only 18% reporting anger at the federal government. But half (50%) are frustrated with the government. About one of four (25%) say they are basically content.

I’m sure that anger and frustration on all sides is higher now that Republicans and Democrats have locked horns. Now the government shutdown is affecting millions.

What are you missing?

Are you angry at Washington, DC? Are you frustrated?

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