WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country's government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).
While the numbers have fluctuated slightly since 2007, the trend has been largely stable since 2010. However, the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has never been less than a majority in the past decade, which has had no shortage of controversies from the U.S. Justice Department's firings of U.S. attorneys to the IRS scandal.
These figures are higher than some might expect, and while the lack of improvement is somewhat disconcerting, the positive takeaway is that Americans still feel fairly free to criticize their government. This is not the case in some parts of the world. Questions about corruption are so sensitive in some countries that even if Gallup is allowed to ask them, the results may reflect residents' reluctance to disparage their government. This is particularly true in countries where media freedom is restricted.
This is why it is most appropriate to look at perceptions of corruption through such lenses as the Freedom House's Press Freedom rankings. Ratings vary among countries with a "free press," including the U.S., and range from a high of 90% in Lithuania to a low of 14% in Sweden. The U.S. does not make the top 10 list, but notably, it is not far from it.
These data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 U.S. adults each year, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2007 and 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults in the U.S., the margin of sampling error has typically been ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
For results based on the total sample of national adults across the 134 countries surveyed in 2014, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
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