American trust in the federal government is at an all-time low. In a new CNN poll only 13 percent of respondents said they think the government can be relied upon to do the right thing always or most of the time. More:
“The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
“But polls conducted by the University of Michigan consistently found a majority of Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s saying that the government could be trusted all or most of the time – until Watergate. In 1972, 53% said they trusted the government always or most of the time. By 1974, that figure had plummeted to 36%, and except for a brief period of patriotic sentiment immediately after the 9/11 attacks, it has remained under 50% ever since,” Holland added.
This poll points to a general problem for liberal ideology. Unless government does its job very well—its various agencies working properly on their own and as a whole—the more tasks it acquires, the unhappier people become with its inability to deliver the services promised. In addition, the more important government action becomes to private interests, the more aggressively the private sector works to achieve “regulatory capture.” Meanwhile, the political system itself becomes so complicated that the public comes to feel that it does not understand what is going on inside its own government. Politicians also lose sight of how the system works and how its interlocking parts affect one another.But this poll isn’t just a challenge to liberalism. CNN also found low trust in big business (17 percent compared to the government’s 13 percent). When people trust neither government nor business, most prefer to give government the power edge as a counterweight to an aggressive private sector. When you add to that factor the widespread American fondness for “free stuff” handed out by government, it seems clear that these gloomy poll results don’t spell a retreat from liberalism.These results aren’t a GOP dream come true. Rather, they are a symptom of a gridlocked and frustrated society. They don’t point the way to a solution, and especially not to the “libertarian moment” that some people would like to read into them.