Only 16% of Americans Trust the Federal Government: Pew Research Poll

By Jon Fleetwood – September 20, 2023

In a striking reflection of public sentiment, a recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals that just 16% of Americans claim they trust the federal government “always or most of the time.”

This worrying statistic highlights a deeper issue, as Americans’ views of politics and elected officials appear to be “unrelentingly negative” under the Biden administration.

“Americans have long been critical of politicians and skeptical of the federal government. But today, Americans’ views of politics and elected officials are unrelentingly negative, with little hope of improvement on the horizon,” the study notes.

This overarching skepticism stretches across various aspects of the political arena.

The comprehensive study finds that the majority of Americans believe the “political process is dominated by special interests, flooded with campaign cash and mired in partisan warfare.”

Further reflecting this sentiment, elected officials are “widely viewed as self-serving and ineffective.”

The poll paints a picture of a nation deeply disillusioned with its political apparatus, with no “single focal point for the public’s dissatisfaction.”

According to the report, there exists “widespread criticism of the three branches of government, both political parties, as well as political leaders and candidates for office.”

Interestingly, this evident dissatisfaction comes at a time when voter turnout is at its peak.

“The elections of 2018, 2020 and 2022 were three of the highest-turnout U.S. elections of their respective types in decades,” the study reads.

Despite this, “voting in elections is very different from being satisfied with the state of politics – and the public is deeply dissatisfied.”

The study also draws attention to the fact that just 4% of U.S. adults feel that “the political system is working extremely or very well,” with another 23% deeming it as working “somewhat well.”

Alarmingly, “about six-in-ten (63%) express not too much or no confidence at all in the future of the U.S. political system.”

Trust in the federal government has been teetering on the edge for some time.

However, the study marks the current trust level “among the lowest levels dating back nearly seven decades.”

To add to this, the Supreme Court has found itself in unfamiliar territory, as “more Americans have an unfavorable than favorable opinion of the Supreme Court – the first time that has occurred in polling going back to the late 1980s.”

The poll also underscores a growing distaste for both major political parties.

Nearly 28% of those surveyed “express unfavorable views of both parties, the highest share in three decades of polling.”

Further, 25% of adults claimed they do not feel “well-represented by either party.”

Candidate choices haven’t escaped public scrutiny either.

As the presidential campaign intensifies, “63% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the candidates who have emerged so far.”

This discontent isn’t limited to the presidential race, as there’s “a downward trend in views of the quality of all political candidates.”

A mere 26% of respondents felt the quality of political candidates to be “very or somewhat good,” showing a significant drop of “about 20 percentage points since 2018.”

In the wake of this dissatisfaction, many Americans advocate for structural changes.

“Majorities back age and term limits and eliminating the Electoral College,” the study notes.

Proposals like “establishing term limits for members of Congress and scrapping the Electoral College” have found favor among the public.

Age restrictions for federal elected officials and Supreme Court justices also garner significant support.

However, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for “increasing the size of the U.S. House or modifying the allocation of Senate seats.”

The new study was primarily based on a survey conducted July 10-16, 2023, among 8,480 adults.

Additional data from a survey conducted June 5-11, 2023, among 5,115 adults was also used.

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