Americans Distrust Government

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & Deficit, Election 2010, PollsLeave a Comment

The Pew Research Center released a report yesterday showing that more Americans distrust their government now that at any point in the last half century.

This is the lede chart:


While this might reflect badly on Obama, and spell bad news for Democrats in the upcoming elections, I think this is more of a "dog bites man" story.

Traditionally, mistrust in government is always down during Democratic administrations.  Take a look at this, also from the Pew Report:

Yup.  People even trusted the government more under Nixon.

I suspect this may have to do with the fact that Democratics actually try to do things, and people get nervous about change.  When you take that and add to it the Republican "fear and noise" machine (Fox News, etc.), I am not surpirsed that government distrust is quite high now.

A recent NBC/WSJ from January found essentially the same thing, but it was better able to parse out the reasons why:

And why isn't the public trusting the government? That Jan. 2010 poll found that 93% said there's too much partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans; 84% said special interests have too much influence over legislation; 74% said the government isn't doing enough to regulate Wall Street; 61% said Democratic majorities are trying to push through legislation without bipartisan compromise; an equal 61% said Republicans are trying to block any Democratic legislation without bipartisan compromise; 58% said the federal government is doing too much; and 47% said Obama is failing to provide the kind of leadership needed on the economy and health care.  

In other words, it is not necessarily a Democratic problem, but a general feeling that there is too much partisanship and influence by special interests.  In other words, a pox upon both the Democratic and Republican houses.

The one thing to note from the NBC/WSJ poll is the stat that 74% don't think government is doing enough to regulate Wall Street.  This bodes well for Democrats, as Obama is gearing up to engage in some serious Wall Street financial regulations, and the Republicans are back to their old game of obstructionism.  If Republicans keep it up, they may bear more of the blame for government mistrust, and that could impact the 2010 elections.