The irony is that we are losing confidence in government all the while expecting more from it.
Check out this new chart from Gallup detailing the remarkably declining trust people place in the branches of government.
“Confidence in the presidency is now the lowest it has been under President Barack Obama, as is confidence in Congress and the Supreme Court, given their historical lows,” write Gallup’s Justin McCarthy.
To see how drastically views about all three branches have eroded, take a look at where things stood in Gallup data in 2005. At that time, more than four in ten Americans said they had either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence” in the presidency (44 percent) and the Supreme Court (41 percent). Roughly one in five (22 percent) said the same about Congress. Compare to where things stand almost a decade later. Confidence in the presidency has dipped to 29 percent (-15) while confidence in the Court has tumbled 11 points. Congress, with not much room to sink, has done so — with just seven percent expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the legislative branch.
Today, no more than three in ten Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in any branch of government. Let that sink if for a minute.
Numbers like these make clear that the “things have always been bad” storyline misses the mark. It is absolutely true that Congress, especially, has never been a terribly confidence-inspiring institution. But the declining confidence in the Supreme Court and the presidency has combined to create a level of distrust with all levers of government that has never been seen before.
What does it mean? That anything coming out of Washington — from either party — is viewed skeptically by a public who have become less trustful of the government while, at the same time, growing more and more polarized along partisan lines. (Those two occurrences are, of course, related.) It also could open the door for candidates — from the presidential level on down — running hard against Washington.