Declining Trust in Our GovernmentIs the American people’s trust in our government declining? According tomost people, it definitely is. Recent polls make this argument very valid. In1995, the Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted a telephone interviewof 1514 random sample adults.
In this interview, people were asked how much ofthe time they trusted in the federal government to do the right thing. Twenty-one percent said most of the time and seventy-one percent said only some of thetime. When asked the same question of their state governments, the resultswere only slightly better. Thirty percent said most of the time and sixty-twopercent said only some of the time (“Why Don’t”). This indicates that amajority of the American people believe that the American government is notdoing the right thing in a lot of the actions it takes.
Of course, nobodyexpects the government to operate perfectly with no mistakes, because this isnot a perfect world. These numbers are too high though. What caused thisproblem in the United States, what is the extend of this problem in our country,and is this distrust of our government even a serious problem at all? These arethree questions that need to be addressed in out society today.What really has caused the American people to distrust our government andwhen did this trend actually begin? I do not believe there is any clear answerto these questions and I do not believe it would ever be possible to pinpointany exact reason for the feelings of the American people.
One reason cited bysome is that it is the fault of poor leaders. Two commonly blamed leaders arePresident Johnson and President Nixon. Two of the biggest drops in the public’sconfidence in our government occurred in 1964, during the bombing of Vietnam,and in 1972, during Watergate (Nye). Although these two events may havecontributed to the distrust of the American government, I do not believe thattwo events and two leaders can be held totally responsible. For one thing,these things occurred over twenty years ago, why is there still distrust today.
Not only does this distrust still exist, but many would say that it hasincreased greatly since then. I do not thing that two leaders can be pinpointedand blamed for destroying the trust in our government. Perhaps though the blamecould be laid on American political leaders in general. In a 1995 poll, thirty-five percent said the main reason that they do not trust the federal governmentis that politicians lack honesty and integrity. Another twenty-four percentcited the reason for their distrust as politicians not being concerned with theinterests and well-being of the people (“Why Don’t”). It makes sense that ifthe American’s do not trust the people who make up our government, then theywill not trust the government as a whole.Just how wide spread is the problem of distrust in the American government?The Post/ABC News polling organization ran seven different polls between 1985-1987 asking, “How much of the time do you trust the government in Washington todo what is right?” Those saying only some of the time or never ranged fromfifty-six to sixty-two percent (Dewey).
A 1994 poll showed that only fifteenpercent of the American public had confidence in our federal government and onlythirty percent had confidence in their state and local governments. Some peoplemay want to believe that distrust of the United States government is limited toonly a small segment of the population, such as the lower class. These pollsindicate otherwise. It appears that a vast majority of Americans have verylittle trust in our political leaders. It is clear distrust of the governmentis wide spread, but is it a serious problem?Does it matter if the people do not trust their government or is itsomething that should be expected? Many people state that the cynicism anddistrust in America are not a problem at all. One opinion is that a mistrust ofgovernment has been around since our countries beginning and is nothing to worryabout.
It is even noted that our country was founded with a mistrust ofgovernment, in particular, mistrust of King George of England (Nye). Anotheropinion is that even though Americans do not trust the every day activities ofthe government, there is still a very positive attitude about the underlyingconstitutional principles that this country was founded upon, and that is themost important thing to consider. Eighty percent of Americans consider theUnited States the best place in the world to live and ninety percent say thatthey like the democratic system of government (Nye). Also, not every aspect ofAmerican government is mistrusted by the American people. They military, forexample, has greatly improved its ratings from the time after Vietnam to theperiod after the Gulf War (Nye). Seventy percent of Americans say that theyhave a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in our military according to a1995 poll (“Why Don’t”).
This indicates that there is still hope for citizensto gain back trust is our government.It is evident that overall there is a mistrust in our government in theUnited States. This is something that has become very wide spread in the UnitedStates. The majority of people do not trust our government.
It is unclear whatcaused this trend, but it can certain be related to the type of politicians thatare being elected in our country and the people’s feelings towards thoseofficials. Although some do not believe it is really a problem, it would benice to be able to place some faith and trust is the people who lead and directthis country. It appears that the only way to do that is to elect individualpeople that we can trust and the only way to accomplish that is to becomeeducated on the issues and vote.