September 1, 2011

Public Satisfaction with Government Hits Low; Anger Rises

11%

The number of Americans who say they are basically content with the federal government has reached its lowest level since the question was first asked in 1997.

Only about one-in-ten Americans (11%) say they are basically content with the federal government, by far the lowest percentage saying so since the question was first asked in 1997. Similarly, public trust in government, which recovered slightly earlier this year, has plummeted again. In current recent survey by the Pew Resarch Center for the People & the Press, 80% say they trust the government to do what is right only some of the time or never. Just 19% say the government can be trusted ‘just about always’ or ‘most of the time’. When this question was first asked on the American National Election Study in 1958 nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans said they always or mostly trusted the government to do what is right.

The share of Americans who describe themselves as angry with the federal government has nearly doubled since March, from 14% to 26%. When anger rose to 20% in the fall of 2006, it was concentrated predominantly among liberal Democrats, with very few conservative Republicans expressing such strongly negative views. When anger rose to 23% in the fall of 2010, this pattern was reversed, with people on the right expressing the most anger. But today, this emotion is more broadly distributed. There is certainly more anger among conservative Republicans (32% express anger) than among liberal Democrats (12%). But compared with a year ago, the political gap has narrowed as anger has risen among Democrats and remained high among Republicans. Across these three periods, independents have grown consistently angrier, from 21% in 2006 to 27% a year ago to 30% today. Read More