Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

IRS Among Least-Popular Federal Agencies

The Internal Revenue Service, now under intense scrutiny for singling out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special review, is one of the least-popular federal agencies — but not quite at the bottom.

In a 2010 Pew Research survey, 47% of people said they had a “very” or “mostly” favorable opinion of the IRS. That was the second-lowest among the 13 agencies people were asked about; only the Department of Education, with a 40% favorability rating, fared worse. Four-in-ten people said they had an unfavorable opinion of the IRS, again exceeded only by the Education Department, with a 53% unfavorability rating.

When people were asked to rate the agencies’ performance, the IRS didn’t fare much better. Only 40% said it was doing an “excellent” (5%) or “good” (35%) job; 38% rated its performance fair and 16% said it was poor.

That put the IRS 11th out of 14 agencies (the 13 mentioned above plus the Homeland Security Department) in terms of public perception of their performance. Ranking lower were the Justice Department (38% excellent or good), the Social Security Administration (36%) and the Education Department (33%). Still, all agencies fared better than Congress, which had only 26% favorable rating in 2010; it’s fallen even further since then. Read more