Sunday, March 15, 2015
C'mon...You Can Trust Us
This March, a new study from Gallup seemed to hit home. The poll, which is from the week of March 5th, reported the government in Washington is the nation's number one problem at 18%, with the economy at 11%, and unemployment at 10%. Also making the list was illegal immigration and healthcare at 7% and terrorism and education tied at 6%. ISIS came in at 4%, which also tied with poverty/homelessness, national security, foreign policy, and race relations. Now think about that for just a moment. Of all that's happening in world---in Iraq or Syria, or the Crimea, or the riots in places like Ferguson, the lackluster economy, and climate change (which didn't even rank), Americans were more concerned about the dismal performance of Washington.
Part of this may relate back to America's transition from a democratic republic to an oligarchy, the widening income gap along with the disappearance of the Middle Class and accompanying decline of unions, the burden of Obamacare or illegal immigration. But I think it is also the longstanding frustration with both political parties and their monopoly on elections thanks to gerrymandering which all but guarantees the election of whichever political party controls that district, and the Citizens United misruling by the not so supreme Supreme Court which said corporations were more effectively more "human" than you or I and certainly had more rights when it came to financial input into elections which it erroneously defined as "free speech".
It's therefore, not too surprising that only 31% of those surveyed were happy with the current direction of the country (with 69% thinking we headed in the wrong direction), and yet Washington keeps chugging down the wrong track at full tilt. In the same vein, a slightly older Pew Research report from February 2014 indicated that only 24% of people trusted the government, or conversely, 76% didn't trust the government; almost mirroring the later Gallup poll.
What I found of particular note was that the last time the American People trusted the government in any significant degree was during the last year of the Kennedy Administration and early Johnson Presidency peaked at 77%, which is interesting given the events at the end of the Kennedy Administration (Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then passage of the Civil Rights Act under Johnson). Even by January 1967, near the height of the Vietnam War, trust in US Government stood at 67%. Even with Watergate and Nixon's resignation, trust in Washington remained at 53%. However, by the time of Jimmy Carter, the Iranian hostage crisis and the subsequent botched rescue attempt, the oil crisis and flagging economy, the public's trust of the government dropped to a dismal 26%. In March, 1994 under Bill Clinton, trust in Washington dropped to 20% (bear in mind that trust in Washington is not the same a public approval of a given president). It wasn't until November 2001, under George W. Bush that we even came close to approaching a majority with 49%. From that point on, it's been all downhill.
Writing a weekly political blog, I came across another article which I thought was not only interesting from my perspective, but also ties into the public's distrust of Washington, and that's the public's distrust of corporate media. A Pew Research Report said that 19% of those polled get their news from sources they didn't trust, be it cable news, a news magazine, or news website. 26% self identified as conservative and 25% as mostly conservative. 14% of those who identified themselves as liberal said they didn't trust the source of their news, while 16% of those who leaned liberal made the statement. Finally, 78% said that trusted the source(s) they got news their news from. In short, those who leaned Right or were solidly conservative were least likely to trust their news source(s). This is consistent with most conservatives not trusting the corporate media--labeling it as biased whereas most liberals seems to generally accept what they're being told (silly lackeys). The source most trusted by conservatives was (naturally) Fox News while liberals were more diverse, with 15% favoring CNN, 13% NPR, 12% MSNBC, and 10% following the New York Times. Interestingly, 39% of the respondents reported neither trusting nor distrusting their news source(s), meaning perhaps that they took what they hear or read with a grain of salt and crosschecked the information with other sources.
Americans Name Government No. 1 Problem
Public Trust in Government
19% say they get their news for a source they distrust
Gallup: 60% of Americans Don't Trust the News Media
Graphic: How Just 6 Corporations own 90% of the Media