Government Distrust

Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don't trust Washington

By LIZ SIDOTI (AP)

WASHINGTON — America’s “Great Compromiser” Henry Clay called government “the great trust,” but most Americans today have little faith in Washington’s ability to deal with the nation’s problems.

Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don’t trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America’s ills, the survey found.

The survey illustrates the ominous situation President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party face as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall’s elections. Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.

The survey found that just 22 percent of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government negatively effects their daily lives, a sentiment that’s grown over the past dozen years.

This anti-government feeling has driven the tea party movement, reflected in fierce protests this past week.

“The government’s been lying to people for years. Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don’t follow through,” says Cindy Wanto, 57, a registered Democrat from Nemacolin, Pa., who joined several thousand for a rally in Washington on April 15 — the tax filing deadline. “There’s too much government in my business. It was a problem before Obama, but he’s certainly not helping fix it.”

Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it’s interfering too much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in favor of personal responsibility.

About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40 percent who want a bigger government providing more. The public was evenly divided on those questions long before Obama was elected. Still, a majority supported the Obama administration exerting greater control over the economy during the recession.

“Trust in government rarely gets this low,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan center that conducted the survey. “Some of it’s backlash against Obama. But there are a lot of other things going on.”

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