Insight

Public Trust Monitor

This year’s first round of national polling for the Public Trust Monitor, our quarterly survey of American opinion on issues at the intersection of the public and private sectors, finds that trust in government continues to decline while trust in business inches upward.  Over the past year, we have used this research to track key attitudes about the balance between government activism and the free market.

In our latest Public Trust Monitor, we find:
  • While we’ve seen no change in ratings for trust in government or corporations to do what is right, distrust in the government to manage its finances responsibly is at an all-time high, and distrust in corporations to manage their finances responsibly is at an all-time low. We also find that a 55% majority says that things in business are headed in the right direction, while just 40% say the same for things in government. However, neither public companies nor the federal government get high marks for transparency — when asked which of the two they’re more satisfied with when it comes to transparency, 46% say neither.

  • Voters remain divided on the role government should play in solving the nation’s problems. Voters are equally likely to believe the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses as they are to believe the government should be doing more. Approximately half of voters are also concerned that the government will go too far with health care legislation, and they remain divided on the need for more regulation of the financial services industry. Conversely, 91% of voters now say they would like to see corporations be involved in helping to solve the nation’s problems, and 69% believe business will play a larger role than government in helping the economy recover.

  • Trust in Democrats and Republicans is now identical and remains very low. Trust has decreased significantly for Democrats over the past year, but Republicans have not been able to capitalize on this decrease. When it comes to identifying solutions to the nation’s problems, majorities now distrust both parties equally. President Obama’s trust rating remains steady at 54% — a number that has not changed since last July.

  • The economy — particularly job losses — continues to dominate the list of key issues. We also find that a majority continues to say economic growth should take priority over protecting the environment. Americans remain pessimistic in their economic outlook, with strong majorities rating the national economy, their local economies, and their local job markets as weak. Americans are also now divided in their trust of the Federal Reserve (49% trust, 45% do not trust). By a large margin, voters with investable assets characterize their current investment activity as holding rather than buying or selling.