- 67% trust local government to handle local problems
- 32% trust the legislative branch of the federal government
- Trust in most institutions at or near historical lows
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup’s annual update on trust in government institutions and actors finds Americans have the most faith in local government (67%) and the least faith in the legislative branch of the federal government, or Congress (32%). Between these two extremes, majorities express trust in state government and the American people, while less than half are confident in the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, elected officials and candidates for office, and in the federal government’s ability to handle both domestic and international problems.
These data are from Gallup’s annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 1-23. The poll finished just before Congress averted a possible government shutdown at the start of the new fiscal year by temporarily extending federal funding until mid-November. The vote to remove Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy -- a first in U.S. history -- also occurred after the poll was completed.
Trust in each institution or actor is statistically similar to a year ago, except for Congress, which saw a drop of six percentage points, from 38% expressing a great deal or fair amount of trust in it last year to 32% this year.
However, all institutions have below-average trust levels compared with historical Gallup norms dating back to the early 1970s. Most of these -- all but state and local governments -- have trust scores more than 10 points below the historical average for that institution. Trust in the judicial branch, usually one of the most trusted branches (averaging 66%), is furthest from its historical average, with its current 49% confidence rating 17 points below its typical rating since 1972.
Trust in the executive branch and in “men and women in political life” are both at record-low points, though neither is meaningfully different from its prior low.
Trust in the American people is tied with the record low in 2021. Most other institutions are within five points of their historical low. The lone exception is state government, at eight points above its low.
Partisans’ Trust Differs in Some Institutions, but Not Others
Democrats are more trusting of most U.S. government institutions than Republicans and independents are. This largely reflects party control of the federal government and executive branch led by President Joe Biden. In years when there has been a Republican president, Republicans showed higher trust than Democrats in the executive branch and the federal government.
The largest party gaps in this year’s survey are seen in trust in the executive branch (83% of Democrats and 9% of Republicans), the federal government’s ability to handle international problems (75% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans), and the federal government’s ability to deal with domestic problems (64% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans).
Democrats are also more trusting than Republicans in state government and politicians.
Republicans have higher trust than Democrats in one institution -- the judicial branch of the federal government -- likely because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Sixty-three percent of Republicans and 34% of Democrats trust the judicial branch.
Republicans and Democrats have similar levels of trust in local government, the American people and the legislative branch.
The lack of a party difference in trust in the legislative branch likely reflects divided control of Congress after Republicans won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections. In 2021 and 2022, when Democrats had majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate, Democrats had greater trust in the legislative branch.
American citizens continue to lack trust in the federal government, with less than half expressing a great deal or fair amount of trust in any federal government institution. This includes the Supreme Court, which had long been among the most trusted institutions but has seen that trust erode amid a series of conservative-leaning rulings, including its unpopular decision on abortion. While Americans still mostly trust the American people to make decisions under the democratic form of government, this level of trust has also dwindled in recent years and now sits at a low point.
Most Americans still retain trust in local and state governments, and at similar levels to what Gallup has measured historically. They may see these levels of government as more responsive to their concerns and more capable, as the federal government continues to suffer from gridlock in a politically divided nation.
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