In a Pew poll so startling to organizers that they repeated it three times to make sure their findings were correct, results show that Americans are experiencing unusually low levels of trust for the government. Only 22 percent of respondents thought they could trust the government all or most of the time, and more people than ever before are angry with it (21 percent of respondents). “Health-care reform contributed in the second half of last year to this growing concern about the power of government,” Pew Director Andrew Kohut told NPR. “The public wants a less activist government.” Kohut added that similar low levels of trust appeared in a similar situation in the early nineties — with a new Democratic president who was struggling to tackle health care.
In fact, according to Kohut and NPR, “measures of trust typically decline during Democratic administrations. Indeed, some of the previous lows in trust of government, as measured since 1958, were recorded during the Clinton and Carter administrations.” The last time trust levels were lower than this, however, was at the end of the most recent Bush Administration, when it dropped below 20 percent. Of course, presidential popularity waxes and wanes, but congressional popularity is on a steady decline. The Pew poll showed that while voters tend to have a “relentlessly” negative view of Congress, the number of Americans who have a favorable view of the legislative branch declined by half over the past year, to 25 percent, the lowest level Pew has ever recorded.