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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mistrust in government a ‘perfect storm’

    EDITORS: Embargoed for publication 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 19,2010 Graphic shows highlights of Pew Research Center poll on dissatisfaction with the federal government. MCT 2010

    With GOVERNMENT-POLL, McClatchy Washington Bureau by Steve Thomma

    11000000; krtcampus campus; krtgovernment government; krtnational national; krtpolitics politics; POL; krt; mctgraphic; 11006004; krtuspolitics; national government; krtnamer north america; u.s. us united states; USA; chart; anger; control economy; dissatisfaction; financial companies; frustration; government poll; pew; regulation; thomma; treible; wa; 2010; krt2010

    WASHINGTON — Only 22 percent of all Americans surveyed say they trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time — among the lowest measures in half a century — according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Sunday night.

    The results point to “”a perfect storm”” of public unrest, Pew reports, “”a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter, partisan-based backlash and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.””

    Growing numbers of people want government’s power curtailed, Pew reports of a mid-April survey that found “”less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems — including more government control over the economy — than there was when (President)Barack Obamafirst took office.””

    “”The public’s hostility toward government seems likely to be an important election issue favoring the Republicans this fall,”” Pew reports. “”However, the Democrats can take some solace in the fact that neither party can be confident that they have the advantage among such a disillusioned electorate. Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all-time high, continues to climb.””

    There have been political ramifications in the past when the public mood grew this sour: In 1980,Ronald ReaganunseatedPresident Carter. In 1994, the GOP won control of the House.

    The current level of public skepticism was matched previously only in the periods leading up to both events — from 1992 to 1995 (reaching a low of 17 percent trust in government in the summer of 1994), and from 1978 to 1980 (bottoming out at 25 percent in 1980).

    When the National Election Study first asked the question in 1958, 73 percent of Americans said they trusted the government to do what is right just about always or most of the time.

    “”The current survey and previous research have found that there is no single factor that drives general public distrust in government,”” Pew reports. “”Instead, there are several factors — and all are currently present. First, there is considerable evidence that distrust of government is strongly connected to how people feel about the overall state of the nation. Distrust of government soars when the public is unhappy with the way things are going in the country.””

    The downward trend began in fall 2008 amid the financial crisis, Pew says.

    Government isn’t the only institution mistrusted in this “”perfect storm”” of public discontent.

    While only 25 percent of those surveyed say the federal government has a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, the same percentage say this about large corporations. Only 22 percent say this about the banks. Only 31 percent say the same about the national news media.

    Interest in government regulating much of anything has declined, with one exception, Pew says:

    “”A clear majority (61 percent) says it is a good idea for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business, which is virtually unchanged from last April (60 percent).””

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