Tags: trust in government | nixon | scandal | local government

It's Been 45 Years Since a Majority of Americans Trusted Federal Government

Image: It's Been 45 Years Since a Majority of Americans Trusted Federal Government
Photo taken January 30, 1973, in Washington of President Richard Nixon delivering his State of the Union Address to the Congress. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

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Wednesday, 03 May 2017 01:14 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected as president in a landslide victory, and 52 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. That level of trust was down dramatically from 77 percent just eight years earlier — and it was destined to keep falling.

Other than a brief blip following 9/11, a majority of Americans have never again trusted the federal government to do the right thing even most of the time. As a result, it’s been 45 years since trusting the federal government was the norm. The vast majority of Americans alive today cannot remember such a time.

The lack of even minimal trust raises troubling questions in a nation founded on a belief that the only legitimate source of authority for a government is the consent of the governed.

Significantly, this decline in trust applies only to the federal government. State and local governments retain much higher levels of trust and approval and have seen little change over the years.

Back in the 1960s and '70s, trust initially declined due to presidential deceptions about Vietnam and Watergate. Lyndon Johnson dropped out of his race for re-election, and Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace due to presidential deceptions and scandals. But trust in the federal government never recovered — it kept falling even as memories of Johnson and Nixon recede further into the past. Over the past decade, the number of citizens trusting the federal government to do the right thing most of the time has fallen to 25 percent or less.

In my forthcoming book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," I make the case that the ongoing distrust of the federal government is directly related to the growth of the Regulatory State. As noted in earlier Numbers of the Day, the number of regulators and regulatory budgets have grown in size enormously over the past four decades.

The book is scheduled for release on Tuesday, May 9.

Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia.

Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His forthcoming book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," is being published by the Sutherland Institute in May. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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It’s been 45 years since trusting the federal government was the norm.
trust in government, nixon, scandal, local government
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2017-14-03
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 01:14 PM
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