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Republicans Push Government Agency Ratings Up, but Not FBI

by Megan Brenan and Steve Ander
Republicans Push Government Agency Ratings Up, but Not FBI

Story Highlights

  • U.S. Postal Service again tops list of government agencies' job ratings
  • Majorities rate eight of 13 government agencies positively
  • Republicans more positive than in 2014 about all agencies except FBI

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Majorities of Americans now rate the job performance of eight of 13 key government agencies as "excellent" or "good"; the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) again tops the list with a 74% positive rating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Secret Service trail the Postal Service as second and third on the list, respectively.

Ratings of Government Agencies
How would you rate the job being done by … ?
Excellent/Good Only fair Poor
% % %
The U.S. Postal Service 74 19 5
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 66 21 6
The Secret Service 63 21 5
The Department of Homeland Security 59 26 10
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 58 22 15
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 57 25 9
NASA ‑‑ the U.S. space agency 56 22 5
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 55 25 13
The Federal Reserve Board 49 28 8
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 46 32 18
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 46 26 21
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 45 32 19
The Veterans Administration, or VA 38 34 24
GALLUP, Dec. 18-19, 2017

Most of the agencies received significantly higher ratings in 2017 than they did in 2014, when Gallup last asked about them. The Secret Service (+20 percentage points), the CDC (+16 points), the Department of Homeland Security (+11 points) and the Federal Reserve Board (+11 points) all saw double-digit improvements in their ratings in this latest update to Gallup's government agency job performance ratings, conducted Dec. 18-19.

Nine of the 13 agencies had been measured before 2014 (and in the case of NASA, 16 times dating back to 1990), and most were rated at least slightly more positively in 2014 than 2013. But the changes from 2014 to 2017 dwarf those from 2013 to 2014, and are likely attributable to the change in power in the White House.

Changes in Government Agency Job Ratings
Figures are percentage rating each agency as doing an "excellent" or "good" job
2014 2017 Change
% % pct. pts.
The Secret Service 43 63 +20
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 50 66 +16
The Department of Homeland Security 48 59 +11
The Federal Reserve Board 38 49 +11
The Veterans Administration, or VA 29 38 +9
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 49 57 +8
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 47 55 +8
NASA ‑‑ the U.S. space agency 50 56 +6
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 41 45 +4
The U.S. Postal Service 72 74 +2
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 44 46 +2
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 45 46 +1
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 58 58 0
Gallup

The USPS, though at the top of the list in 2017, joins the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the FBI in not receiving significantly higher ratings this year than in 2014. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (which Gallup refers to as the "Veterans Administration" for trending purposes) again receives the lowest rating, despite showing some improvement.

In 2014, the last time Gallup asked the government agency series, the FBI ranked second among all of the agencies, but it has fallen in the overall rankings as the positive ratings of others have risen. The FBI's excellent or good rating is currently unchanged at 58%.

Republicans' Ratings of Government Agencies Much Improved

The improvement in the overall ratings of most government agencies is largely the result of more positive ratings from Republicans. The greatest shift from 2014 is a 33-point increase in the positive ratings of the CDC, although Republicans now view most agencies more favorably than they did in 2014, with the FBI the notable exception.

Changes in Government Agency Job Ratings, Among Republicans
Figures are percentage rating each agency as doing an "excellent" or "good" job
2014 2017 Change
% % pct. pts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 39 72 +33
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 41 69 +28
The Secret Service 44 71 +27
The Department of Homeland Security 42 68 +26
The Federal Reserve Board 35 53 +18
The Veterans Administration, or VA 20 34 +14
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 30 43 +13
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 52 62 +10
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 44 53 +9
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 40 49 +9
NASA ‑‑ the U.S. space agency 52 57 +5
The U.S. Postal Service 63 66 +3
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 62 49 -13
GALLUP

Republicans' rosier outlook is part of a larger pattern in other Gallup research this year whereby GOP supporters are more positive than Democrats about the government and state of the country. In 2014, when Barack Obama was in the White House, majorities of Republicans rated only four of the 13 agencies positively, but this year, after their party recaptured the presidency, nine of the agencies receive majority positive ratings from Republicans.

In 2014, 62% of Republicans viewed the job the FBI was doing as "excellent" or "good," but that positive reading has fallen 13 points to 49% this year as tensions between the FBI and the Trump administration have escalated. As the FBI continues to investigate allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and whether the Trump campaign was involved, Donald Trump has become increasingly negative about the agency. Republicans appear to have absorbed that message. In contrast, Democrats rated the FBI higher by nine points this year than they three years ago.

##SPEEDBUMP##

Democrats' Ratings of Government Agencies More Stable Than Republicans'

While Democrats' ratings of government agencies have also changed, their shifts in opinion are less consistent and dramatic than Republicans'. Republican ratings of eight agencies improved by double digits, compared with three among Democrats. Echoing the pattern among all adults, Democrats rate the Postal Service highest at 78%, yet that is essentially unchanged from 2014.

Changes in Government Agency Job Ratings, Among Democrats
Figures are percentage rating each agency as doing an "excellent" or "good" job
2014 2017 Change
% % pct. pts.
The Secret Service 50 63 +13
NASA ‑‑ the U.S. space agency 47 58 +11
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 50 60 +10
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 60 69 +9
The Federal Reserve Board 42 50 +8
The Veterans Administration, or VA 36 42 +6
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 63 68 +5
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 45 45 0
The U.S. Postal Service 80 78 -2
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 52 48 -4
The Department of Homeland Security 55 51 -4
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 51 47 -4
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 56 51 -5
GALLUP

In addition to the 20-point difference between Republicans' and Democrats' rating of the FBI, their ratings of three other agencies also differ by double digits. FEMA (21 points) and the Department of Homeland Security (17 points) are viewed more positively by Republicans, while the Postal Service (12 points) is rated better by Democrats. Five agencies are viewed about equally.

Ratings of Government Agencies, by Party
How would you rate the job being done by … ?
Republicans Democrats Difference
% % pct. pts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 69 48 +21
The Department of Homeland Security 68 51 +17
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 53 45 +8
The Secret Service 71 63 +8
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 72 68 +4
The Federal Reserve Board 53 50 +3
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 62 60 +2
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 49 47 +2
NASA ‑‑ the U.S. space agency 57 58 -1
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 43 51 -8
The Veterans Administration, or VA 34 42 -8
The U.S. Postal Service 66 78 -12
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 49 69 -20
Figures are percentage rating each agency as doing an "excellent" or "good" job
GALLUP, Dec. 18-19, 2017

Bottom Line

Americans have expressed increased levels of confidence in the economy and U.S. institutions in 2017, as well as higher levels of support for a more active government. This increased level of optimism and positivity is likely to have translated into the more positive views of the overall performance of government agencies that are evident in these poll results.

However, the country's political polarization has implications for Americans' views of government performance. With the change from a Democratic to a Republican president, a similar shift in performance ratings of government agencies among the parties' supporters would be expected. But the agencies under the relatively new Trump administration have not seen this kind of change. Instead, Democrats give higher ratings to many government agencies under the Trump administration than they did during the Obama administration.

While the survey did not probe beyond these general ratings, the stabilization or even improvement in Democrats' results under a Republican administration may show that Democrats clearly differentiate between executive branch government operations and executive branch politics. Alternatively, it may show that Democrats also sympathize with government agencies or employees who serve under a Trump administration. This may be particularly apparent in the differing partisan views of the FBI, about which Trump has said, "Its reputation is in tatters."

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 18-19, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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