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Postal Service Still Americans' Favorite Federal Agency

Postal Service Still Americans' Favorite Federal Agency

Story Highlights

  • Three in four Americans say postal service doing an excellent or good job
  • Seven other agencies also earn good marks from majority in U.S.
  • Veterans Affairs, EPA and FDA viewed more negatively than positively

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are maintaining a mostly positive view of the job each of eight different high-profile federal departments and agencies is doing, out of 13 such entities measured in a new Gallup poll. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) remains the top-rated agency, with 74% saying it is doing an "excellent" or "good" job. This conforms with its No. 1 status in all prior years Gallup measured it, including 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Americans' Ratings of Job -- Key Federal Departments and Agencies
How would you rate the job being done by... Would you say it is doing an excellent, good, only fair or poor job?
Excellent/Good Only fair Poor
% % %
The U.S. Postal Service 74 18 8
The Secret Service 69 19 8
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 64 22 12
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 60 25 12
NASA, the U.S. space agency 60 26 5
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 57 23 19
The Department of Homeland Security 55 26 17
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 52 29 16
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 50 30 19
The Federal Reserve Board 48 34 13
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 44 33 22
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 43 30 26
The Veterans Administration, or VA 39 31 28
Gallup, April 17-30, 2019

The other seven agencies earning positive ratings from a majority of Americans in the April 17-30 poll include the Secret Service at 69% followed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the CIA, NASA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Gallup published a more detailed review of the FBI ratings on Friday.

The IRS and Federal Reserve Board earn good marks from about half the public. However, three agencies tested -- the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (referred to in the survey as "the Veterans' Administration, or VA") -- garner more only fair/poor than excellent/good ratings.

Gallup first asked this question with a shorter list of agencies in 2003, during the George W. Bush administration, and has updated it several times since. That includes three times during Barack Obama's presidency, and twice during Donald Trump's presidency.

Agency Ratings Stable Since 2017

There has been little change in agency ratings since the prior reading in December 2017. The only significant shift has been a six percentage-point increase in the excellent/good score for the Secret Service, from 63% to 69%. However, the average rating across all 13 agencies measured in the two polls held steady at 55%.

The changes between 2014 and 2017 were more significant, spanning the presidential transition from Obama to Trump. This is reflected in the lower average job rating of 47% for all 13 agencies in 2014 versus the average 55% in 2017. The excellent/good scores increased for eight of the 13 agencies between the two polls, largely owing to improved Republican views with Trump entering the Oval Office.

Other notable trends:

  • The 69% reading for the Secret Service this year is the highest any agency other than the USPS has received. It suggests that the 2012 prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents that likely resulted in the agency's inaugural 2014 reading being a low 43% has been largely forgotten by the public.

  • The IRS is also enjoying a positive moment for its image, with 50% rating it excellent or good, up slightly from 45% in 2017. This is significantly above the 27% recorded in 2013 when the agency was under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny in applying for tax-exempt status.

  • The VA has consistently ranked last on the list each year it has been measured, with its excellent/good score ranging from 29% (after reports of veterans dying due to long waits for medical care at VA hospitals) to 39%.

  • NASA is the only agency of the 13 with a long Gallup trendline, as Gallup measured its job performance using a standalone question from 1990 to 1999, before adding NASA to the agency list in 2003. The current 60% rating its job performance excellent or good is slightly above its historical average of 56%.

Partisan Gaps in Agency Ratings

Majorities of Republicans rate 11 of the 13 agencies positively, whereas Democrats are positive about seven. This imbalance is largely a flip of what Gallup found when Obama was in office; at that time, Democrats viewed more agencies positively than did Republicans.

The largest partisan gaps in views of agencies today are seen for FEMA and Homeland Security, with Republicans significantly more positive than Democrats about their performance. The party difference on FEMA is partly due to a 10-point decline over the past year in Democrats' positive evaluation of the agency amid ongoing criticism of its handling of hurricane disaster aid to Puerto Rico.

2019 Federal Government Ratings, by Party ID
% Rating job done by each department or agency as "excellent" or "good"
Republicans Democrats Gap^
% %
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA 64 38 +26
The Department of Homeland Security 65 42 +23
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA 54 38 +16
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA 52 37 +15
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC 71 61 +10
The Veterans Administration, or VA 45 35 +10
The Secret Service 74 66 +8
The Federal Reserve Board 51 45 +6
NASA, the U.S. space agency 61 60 +1
The Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS 53 52 +1
The Central Intelligence Agency, or the CIA 59 61 -2
The U.S. Postal Service 69 76 -7
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI 46 66 -20
^ Gap is net Republican rating (Republican minus Democratic rating)
Gallup, April 17-30, 2019

There is also a 20-point partisan gap in positive ratings of the FBI, with Democrats being the more supportive group at a time when the FBI has been the focus of stinging criticism by the sitting Republican president.

Several other agencies provoke moderately higher ratings from Republicans than Democrats: the EPA, FDA, CDC and VA.

Meanwhile, six agencies appear to be above the partisan fray for the time being, with fewer than 10 points separating Republican and Democratic ratings. These are NASA, the CIA, the IRS, the Federal Reserve Board, the USPS and the Secret Service. However, these organizations have not always sparked political unity, such as in 2014 when Republicans were far more critical than Democrats of the CDC during the Ebola crisis.

Bottom Line

Americans' trust in the federal government to solve both domestic and international problems was at a low ebb in January. Nevertheless, public faith in many of the specific federal agencies charged with doing the nation's business remains quite strong, similar to the levels seen in 2017 and generally improved from 2014. However, although most of the federal organizations tested are viewed positively by Americans, some key ones -- namely the Department of Veterans' affairs, the EPA and the FDA -- have work to do to repair perceptions that their operations are subpar.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


Lydia Saad is the Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup.

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