Trump Thrives as Trust in Government Hits 50-Year Low
Policy + Politics

Trump Thrives as Trust in Government Hits 50-Year Low

Flickr/C.M. Keiner

A comprehensive new survey documenting Americans’ jaded views of their government graphically illustrates why this has become the year of political outsiders -- and why billionaire businessman Donald Trump remains the man to beat for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Little more than two months before the first caucuses and primaries of the political season, polling by the Pew Research Center concludes that public trust in its elected officials and government programs is at the lowest levels in a half century.

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Currently, a mere 19 percent say they can trust the government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past 50 years. Just 20 percent say they would characterize government programs as being well-run. Lawmakers, governors and other elected officials are so widely reviled that 55 percent of those surveyed insisted that “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems.

Moreover, Trump and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, neither of whom has ever been in government, are the top choices for president among Republican voters who are angriest about government.

The survey, based on 6,000 interviews conducted between Aug. 27 and Oct. 4, found that 64 percent of those Republicans “angry” at government have a favorable view of Trump, while 71 percent have strong favorable views of Carson.

Partisan Cleavages

By contrast, only 36 percent of those angry GOP voters are favorably disposed to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is widely viewed as part of the political establishment. While other presidential candidates seen as political insiders are suffering from voter backlash, two exceptions are Republican senators Marco Rubio of Florida, who received a positive rating from 66 percent of angry Republicans, and Ted Cruz of Texas, with 58 percent.

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A new Washington Post-ABC News national poll released over the weekend shows Trump leading the field with 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters, followed by Carson with 22 percent and Rubio with 11 percent.


Americans concede that running the government is a tough job and that more than half the big issues facing the country do not have clear solutions, according to the survey.

But by a margin of 55 percent to 39 percent, Americans believe that ordinary Americans could do a better job of solving the country’s most intractable problems than elected officials.

This has been one of Trump’s major campaign themes, as he repeatedly has dismissed President Obama and other government officials as “incompetent” or “very, very stupid people.”

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The Pew study cautions that the percentage of Republicans who say they are angry with their government (32 percent) is not quite as high as in October 2013, when it was 38 percent. However, Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say they are angry with the government. And among politically active Republicans and Democrats who vote and follow politics closely, the gap is nearly four to one – or 42 percent to 11 percent.