Gallup: Trust in Fed. Govt’s Ability to Handle Problems ‘Lowest to Date’

By Michael W. Chapman | February 4, 2019 | 5:10pm EST
The U.S. Capitol. (Getty Images)

( -- A Gallup poll published on Jan. 31 revealed that Americans’ trust in the federal government’s ability to handle both domestic and international problems is at its “lowest” since Gallup began consistently asking that question more than two decades ago, in 1997.

Only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the government’s ability to handle international issues, and only 35 percent trust its ability to handle domestic issues.

These numbers have decreased substantially since September 2018, when 50 percent of Americans trusted the government’s ability to handle international problems and 45 percent trusted its ability to handle domestic problems.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald
Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (Getty Images)

According to Gallup, the decreases in trust were sharper among Republicans than Democrats.

Republicans’ trust in the government’s ability to handle international problems fell from 84 percent in September 2018 to 66 percent in January 2019, and their trust in its ability to deal with domestic problems dropped 12 points, to 59 percent.

By contrast, Democrats’ trust in the government’s handling of domestic issues (28 percent) has remained “essentially unchanged, having already fallen from 71% in 2016 to 30% in 2018,” and their trust in its handling of international problems has only declined five points since September, from 31 percent to 26 percent.

Gallup noted that members of the party of the sitting U.S. president are generally “more likely to express confidence in the government’s handling of domestic problems.”

As a result, the decline in trust among Republicans – whose party currently holds the White House – is “less common,” according to Gallup.

“Whereas a decrease in Democrats’ trust might be expected under a Republican president, it is less common for a president’s party faithful to abruptly lose trust in the government.”


Gallup also pointed out, however, that the result of the November 2018 election, in which Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, could be a factor in the decline in confidence among Republicans.

Another factor could be the partial government shutdown, which lasted 35 days and temporarily left hundreds of thousands of government workers without pay. Gallup’s survey was conducted Jan. 21-27, in the midst of the shutdown.

Previously, the lowest levels of trust in the federal government were 38 percent in 2015, for domestic problems, and 43 percent in 2014, for international problems. The highest levels were recorded in October 2001, a month after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. At that time, 77 percent of Americans trusted the government to handle domestic issues and 83 percent trusted it to handle international issues.

Interviewers conducted the survey by phone and spoke to a random sample of 1,017 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

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