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Government Agency Ratings: CIA, FBI Up; Federal Reserve Down

Government Agency Ratings: CIA, FBI Up; Federal Reserve Down

Story Highlights

  • CIA rating up 11 points after sharp drop in 2021
  • Opinions of job the Federal Reserve Board is doing are down seven points
  • NASA, Postal Service get highest ratings

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup's latest update on federal government agency and department ratings finds a partial recovery in attitudes toward the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after sharp declines between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, Americans have soured on the job the Federal Reserve Board is doing as it tries to battle inflation. Ratings of other agencies are generally stable, with NASA and the Postal Service getting the most positive evaluations. Gallup's initial rating of the Department of Justice is among the lowest tested, with about as many saying it is doing a poor job as an excellent or good one.

FBI, CIA Ratings Recover; CDC Image Does Not

Last year, Gallup documented double-digit declines since 2019 in positive job ratings of eight government agencies and departments, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CIA, U.S. Postal Service, FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Homeland Security, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Sept. 1-16, 2022, Gallup poll finds a partial recovery in ratings of the CIA (from 41% to 52%) and FBI (from 44% to 50%). In 2019, those agencies had 60% and 57% positive job ratings, respectively.


The five other agencies that experienced sharp drops in 2021 and were measured again this year remain lower, including the CDC, which had the biggest drop in 2020, from 64% to 40%. Forty-one percent of Americans this year say the CDC is doing an excellent or good job. Ratings of the CDC have likely been influenced by its handling of the coronavirus response in 2020 and early 2021.

The Federal Reserve Board was among the group of agencies and departments that did not have significantly worse ratings in 2021 than in 2019. However, views of the Fed have deteriorated this year -- falling from 44% in 2021 to 37% -- as it has tried to counter inflation by instituting a series of interest rate hikes.

Some economists and elected officials have criticized the Fed for downplaying the threat of inflation when it first became evident in 2021 and not responding to it faster. The central bank's rating is still not as low as it was in 2009 (30%) as the country was coming out of the Great Recession.


NASA, Postal Service Get Highest Marks

Like the Fed, ratings of NASA were stable between 2019 and 2021. The U.S. Postal Service, which has typically ranked best when included in past surveys, took a big image hit last year. Although the Postal Service's job ratings have not improved meaningfully this year, it, along with NASA, receives the best overall scores, at 60% and 56%, respectively. At least half of Americans also rate the FBI and CIA positively.

Of the 11 institutions included in this year's survey, the IRS and Justice Department receive the lowest ratings. Each has barely more positive ratings than negative ratings. The Justice Department has recently been under fire from Republicans after its raid on former President Donald Trump's residence.


Democrats More Positive About Agency Performance

Democrats rate each agency or department much more positively than Republicans do, likely because a Democratic president is in office. In 2019, when Donald Trump was president, Republicans mostly rated the agencies better than Democrats did (the FBI was a notable exception).

All 11 agencies in this year's survey get majority positive evaluations from Democrats, while only NASA and the Postal Service -- both at 51% -- are viewed positively by a majority of Republicans.

Partisan groups diverge most in their assessments of the FBI, which 79% of Democrats and 29% of Republicans say is doing a good job. Since 2017, Republicans have grown increasingly critical of the FBI, likely tied to the agency's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and, more recently, to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Trump's possessing dozens of classified documents at his residence.

Forty-one percentage points separate Democrats' and Republicans' ratings of the CDC. For most other agencies -- except NASA and the Postal Service -- the party gaps are roughly 30 points.


Improved perceptions of the CIA are apparent among Republicans (up 13 points), independents (eight points) and Democrats (14 points). In contrast, Democrats' opinions of the FBI have improved by 13 points, whereas there has been no meaningful change among Republicans or independents.

The Federal Reserve's rating has declined slightly more among Democrats, down 10 points, than among Republicans, down six points.

Bottom Line

Americans' opinions of key government agencies tumbled between 2019 and 2021, and none that saw meaningful declines are back to where they were three years ago. Only NASA has similar ratings now.

In 2019, average ratings of the 10 agencies and departments measured in the past three surveys were similar by party: 58% among Republicans, 56% among independents and 54% among Democrats. Today, the average ratings are significantly worse among Republicans (32%) and independents (42%), but slightly better among Democrats (62%).

A worse economy now than in 2019 may be contributing to the decline, especially among independents. Republicans' distrust of government when a Democrat is president largely explains the decline in their ratings, and that decline is not offset by the more modest increase in Democratic ratings after the change from the Trump to the Biden administration.

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