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Government Agency Ratings Remain Largely Negative

Government Agency Ratings Remain Largely Negative

Story Highlights

  • U.S. Postal Service remains top-rated government agency
  • 12 departments and agencies get positive ratings from less than 50% of Americans
  • Democrats rate 15 of 16 agencies more positively than Republicans do

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Of 16 federal government agencies and departments included in the latest Gallup survey, just four receive positive job-performance ratings from a majority of Americans, making 2023 the third consecutive year of relatively low readings. The U.S. Postal Service (62%), the Secret Service (55%), the Department of Defense (53%) and NASA (52%) are each evaluated as “excellent” or “good” by more than half of U.S. adults.

At the same time, majorities of Americans rate the other 12 government agencies as “only fair” or “poor.” The IRS is viewed in the lowest regard, with 30% positive and 70% negative ratings, while the Veterans Administration (VA), Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Reserve Board, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are not far behind, with 32% to 38% rating them positively.


Six other government entities garner positive ratings ranging from 40% to 49% in the Sept. 1-23 Gallup poll -- the State Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

With the exception of NASA, which has been tracked since 1990, Gallup has periodically asked Americans to rate a variety of federal agencies and departments since 2003, though the trends for half of the agencies started in 2009 or later. Many agency ratings dropped sharply between 2019 and 2021, and none have returned to their pre-pandemic levels. The USPS is the only agency of the 16 that has enjoyed majority-level positive ratings since 2003. Most of the current ratings are at or below the trend averages, and nine of the 16 agencies are at or near their lowest points in the trend.

There has been little change in agency ratings since last year. The only significant shift has been a six-percentage-point decrease in Americans’ rating of the CIA.

Partisans’ Ratings of Nearly All Agencies Differ Sharply

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view 15 of the 16 agencies and departments more positively than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents do. Only the VA is rated similarly by both party groups. About one in three of each group views the VA positively.

At least half of Democrats rate 13 agencies positively. Along with the VA, less than half of Democrats view the IRS and the EPA as excellent or good. Meanwhile, only one agency -- the Postal Service -- enjoys majority-level positive ratings from Republicans.

The gaps in partisans’ ratings are greatest for the FBI and the CDC (44 points each). Republicans’ ratings of the FBI first fell in 2017 amid the agency’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The FBI’s subsequent investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents have likely also contributed to the increase in Republicans’ negative ratings. Criticism of the way the CDC handled the pandemic from Trump and other Republican officials and opinion leaders has similarly soured Republicans on that agency.


Republicans’ broadly negative assessments of the government agencies are largely because a Democrat currently occupies the White House. In 2019, during Trump’s presidential term, Republicans’ ratings outpaced Democrats’ on most agencies, but in 2021, after President Joe Biden took office, the opposite was the case.

Bottom Line

Americans’ ratings of most government agencies remain at a historical ebb, as Republicans view them particularly negatively -- at or near their lowest points. These weak ratings come at a time of diminished satisfaction with the country’s direction and a lack of confidence in U.S. institutions.

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