February 12, 2013

Trust in Government in Washington Remains Low

26 %

Only about a quarter of Americans say they trust the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time.

For the past seven years, a period covering the final two years of the George W. Bush administration and Barack Obama’s entire presidency, no more than about three-in-ten Americans have said that they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing always or most of the time.

A January 2013 survey finds only about a quarter (26%) saying they can trust the government always or most of the time, while nearly three-quarters (73%) say that they can trust government only some of the time, or volunteer that they can never trust the government.

Majorities across all partisan and demographic groups express little or no trust in government. However, there continue to be sizable racial, age and partisan differences in these opinions.

More than twice as many Hispanics as whites trust the federal government (44% vs. 20%); among blacks, 38% say they can trust the government always or most of the time.

People younger than 30 have more trust in government than do those older than 30. And far more Democrats (38%) than independents (21%) or Republicans (15%) say they can trust the government at least most of the time.

The Pew Research Center’s 2010 study of attitudes toward government found that, since the 1950s, the party in control of the White House has expressed more trust in government than the so-called “out party.” But partisan differences in trust in government have been much wider during the Bush and Obama administrations than during previous administrations. Read more

(See interactive graphic “Public Trust in Government: 1958-2013”)