Independence Day: Distrust of the federal government grows, survey shows

Jul 03, 2013

(Phys.org) —As the nation prepares to celebrate its independence from British rule, trust in the government formed 237 years ago continues to decline.

Fewer than one in 10 local leaders, or 6 percent, in Michigan the to "do what is right" nearly always or most of the time, according to a University of Michigan survey.

U-M's Michigan Public Policy Survey and the State of the State Survey at Michigan State University teamed up to compare the views of Michigan's local leaders and state residents on the fundamental issue of trust that's critical to democratic governance.

More than half of Michigan's local leaders, or 59 percent, say they trust the federal government seldom or almost never, according to the poll by U-M's Ford School of Public Policy.

Trust in Michigan's state government is somewhat higher, but still low overall: 19 percent of local leaders trust Lansing nearly always or most of the time, while 28 percent trust it seldom or almost never.

More encouraging are indications that 67 percent of local leaders place a lot of trust in others at their level, which could facilitate cooperative efforts between municipalities.

"As pressure grows to expand service-sharing among Michigan's , these high levels of inter-local trust may provide a strong foundation to build on," said Thomas Ivacko, who oversees the survey at the Ford School's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

The report also includes comparisons to Michigan citizens' trust in government, based on Michigan State's survey.

"Our surveys ask about the same questions of different groups of people yet show some interesting—and sharp—differences between local leaders and the state's citizenry," said Charles Ballard, director of the State of the State Survey. "Together, the surveys stand in interesting contrast, especially as we approach the nation's Independence Day celebration."

Key comparisons include:

  • While 41 percent of Michigan's citizens say they trust the seldom or almost never, 59 percent of Michigan's local officials report such distrust for Washington.
  • When it comes to the state government, 19 percent of both Michigan's local leaders and its citizens trust the state government nearly always or most of the time. While Republican local leaders (25 percent) and Republican citizens (23 percent) express similar levels of trust in Lansing, Democratic (6 percent) and Independent local leaders (13 percent) are less trusting of the state government than are the state's Democratic and Independent citizens (19 percent and 22 percent, respectively).
  • Local leaders overall (67 percent) are much more likely than Michigan's citizens (39 percent) to express high trust in local government. Similarly, while just 4 percent of local leaders say they trust other local governments seldom or almost never, the percentage of citizens who seldom or almost never trust their own local government is much higher (21 percent).

"The low levels of trust in Washington and Lansing raise a big red flag in my eyes since local government leaders are likely to be more informed than most are about government operations in general," Ivacko said.

The U-M study, conducted April-June 2013, involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,350 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 73-percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points either way.

Explore further: Survey finds most local leaders want residents engaged, but see limits

More information: closup.umich.edu/michigan-public-policy-survey/25/trust-in-government-among-michigans-local-leaders-and-citizens

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Americans support local control of schools

Jul 17, 2012

Despite criticism that local school boards are "dinosaurs" that need to be replaced, Americans support local control of their schools, Michigan State University education scholars argue in a new paper.

Recommended for you

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

2 hours ago

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.