Pollsters’ look at American trust in government

In last week’s Thanksgiving-themed blog post, “It’s the American way!,” we looked at a particular instance of government working well as a reason for hope, but also, well, as an exception that proves the rule. There is a deep-rooted sentiment that a crisis is facing the American political system.

This week, we take a more empirical look at the state of American trust in government, through the eyes of number crunchers Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell. In their article on POLITICO Magazine, the pollster pair argues that “[t]he public’s frustration with Washington is reaching dangerous levels.”1 The assumption that our system is without peer or equal – which we have all been brought up to instinctively believe – is “now openly and avowedly up for your question and doubt.”

According to Gallup, only 50% of Americans believe President Obama is “honest and trustworthy,” down from 60% last June:2


In addition, 50% of voters believe the President “knowingly lied” when he said Americans could keep their health care plans under the Affordable Care Act.3

Congress has it even worse, with a dismal approval rating of 6%.4 A whopping 78% of U.S. likely voters would choose to get rid of the entire Congress and start over, a jump of 10 points over the previous high in May 2012. More and more Americans feel the need “for a third party or independent force to be a pragmatic problem solver and an oppositional force to dysfunctional Washington:”1,5

Perceived Need for a Third Major U.S. Political Party

What do all these charts and numbers add up to? “[N]o one or no institution has credibility in America today. The dip in the president’s honesty rating is not a blip, but part of long-term decline in confidence in government and institutions that represents and unraveling of a system where nobody is trusted at all.”1 In fact, only 19% of Americans trust government in Washington to do what is right either just about always or most of the time, the lowest mark since 1994:6

Trust in government


T4A.org was created as a response to the sentiments expressed in the article and that almost all Americans are feeling today. We feel that we can serve as the platform for that independent, problem-solving force that is so necessary in these precarious times.



1 Schoen, D. E., & Caddell, P. H. (2013, December 1). America’s crisis of trust [Editorial]. POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/americas-crisis-of-trust-100504.html

2 Saad, L. (2013, November 13). Obama’s image as “strong and decisive leader” takes a hit. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/165833/obama-image-strong-decisive-leader-takes-hit.aspx

3 Anderson Robbins Research, & Shaw & Company Research. (2013, November 13). Fox News Poll. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2013/11/13/fox-news-polls-half-voters-think-president-lied-about-obamacare-majority-want/

4 Frankovic, K. (2013, November 27). Partisanship and the filibuster – Congress approval hits a low. YouGov. Retrieved from http://today.yougov.com/news/2013/11/27/partisanship-and-filibuster-congressional-approval/

5 Jones, J. M. (2013, October 11). In U.S., perceived need for third party reaches new high. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/165392/perceived-need-third-party-reaches-new-high.aspx

6 Trust in government. (2013, September). Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/5392/trust-government.aspx