Less Than 50 Percent of Americans Trust the Government to Do its Job

Less than 50 percent of Americans trust the government to handle international and domestic problems, according to a new Gallup poll.

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Less than 50 percent of Americans trust the government to handle international and domestic problems, according to a new Gallup poll. The country's trust in the government's capabilities have reached record lows — only 49 percent of those surveyed trusted the government's ability to solve international problems, while just 42 percent trusted the government to fix domestic issues.

On the international side, Syria most likely played a role in the sharp drop in trust. Last month 66 percent of Americans had faith in our leaders' ability to handle political matters. The drop on the domestic side wasn't as bad — from 51 to 42 percent — and may, according to Gallup, be the result of the poor economy and low confidence in Congress.

In general, America's faith in its government has been declining. Under President Obama, a September 2011 CNN/ORC poll conducted during his first term found that "only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what's right just about always or most of the time," down from 25 percent the year before. A June 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll found that 24 percent of likely voters trusted the government to do the right thing most or all of the time.

Of course, declining trust in government precedes this administration by several decades. In January 2013, Pew released an interactive graph documenting the U.S.'s faith in its leaders between November 1958 and this year. The Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations enjoyed fairly high levels of public trust (as in, at least more people trusted them than didn't) and it's all been downhill from there. Since Johnson, no president has enjoyed an average level of public trust in his government over 60 percent.

Prior to this Gallup poll, the lowest trust-levels were reached during the end of the Bush administration, in the midsts of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At the same time, the highest ever government trust rating was also reached under Bush, the month after 9/11.

And while "the government" implies both the President's administration and Congress, there's an obvious partisan shift in support between the Bush and Obama eras. When looking at how many democrats, republicans and independents trusted the government during Bush's last term, Obama's first term and the present, democrats were more likely to trust Obama's administration and republicans were more like to trust Bush's. Independents, however, trust the government about as much now as they did in 2007.

There is some good news for the Obama administration. As low as trust in the government has been under his term, Congress' approval rating is still abysmal. A recent Gallup poll found that only 19 percent of Americans approve of how Congress has been doing. That's a five percent increase from last month, and the highest it's been all year.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.