How Americans Perceive Government in 2017

Gallup: “Overall, Americans’ views of government remain negative. Most U.S. adults are dissatisfied with how the executive and legislative branches are doing their jobs, and majorities hold unfavorable views of both major political parties. Even Republicans rate Congress negatively, despite their party being in control of both chambers.

  1. Americans’ frustration with government is focused on Washington, D.C. This is seen in trust and approval ratings they give to the executive and legislative branches — especially Congress. U.S. adults maintain higher levels of trust in the judicial branch as well as state and local government.
  2. Barely a quarter of Americans, 28%, currently say they are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed. This is below the average of 38% found in the 22 times Gallup has asked this question since 1971 but still above the low point of 18%, recorded during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.
  3. Americans’ low trust in many aspects of their government is part of a general trend of declining trust in U.S. institutions. But even in this broad context, the government is particularly suspect in the public’s eyes. The federal government has the least positive image of any business or industry sector measured, Congress engenders the lowest confidence of any institution that Gallup tests, and Americans rate the honesty and ethics of members of Congress as the lowest among 22 professions in Gallup’s most recent update.
  4. Another longtime indicator of citizen frustration with government comes from Gallup’s monthly updates on the most important problem facing the nation. Government was the most frequently occurring single problem mentioned during all of 2014 and 2015, was the second most frequently mentioned problem in 2016, and has been at the top or near the top of the list throughout 2017.
  5. The issues that Americans raise when they talk about government as the top problemcenter more on the process of government and political personalities — particularly infighting and bickering — than on worries about government power, size, or specific policies or tendencies.
  6. Americans continue to have more trust in the government to handle international than domestic problems, although both are down substantially since Gallup began measuring them routinely 17 years ago. Even with these overall declines, a majority continue to have at least a fair amount of trust in the government to handle international issues.
  7. Americans’ declining trust in the government is also reflected in the finding that both presidential and congressional job approval ratings are low on a historical basis. Just 13% say they approve of Congress, slightly above the all-time low of 9% recorded in the fall of 2013. Rank-and-file Republicans are essentially as down on the legislative branch of government as are Democrats, even though the GOP is in control of both houses. Presidential job approval is in the 35% to 40% range, well below historical averages as well as averages for elected presidents in their first year in office.
  8. One consistent finding in recent decades: Americans have a relatively higher level of trust in the judicial branch than either the executive or legislative branch. The higher regard in which Americans hold the judicial branch is also reflected in the approval rating they give the Supreme Court — now 49%, and the highest in five years. Still, trust in all three branches is down on a longer-term basis.
  9. Trust in the men and women in political office is also low. The majority of Americans, however, continue to have trust in the people of the country themselves, in essence the bedrock of democracy, and this is up slightly this year….(More)”.