Connecting state and local government leaders
A nationwide poll provides insights into a continuing trend about trust in U.S. city halls and state capitals.
Americans appear to have more confidence in local government than state government, based on the results of Gallup poll conducted earlier this month.
The survey found that 71 percent of respondents have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in the local governments where they live to handle local problems. That’s compared to 62 percent who felt the same about their state government’s ability to handle state level problems.
Since the early 2000s, this measure of trust has been consistently higher for local government than for state government in the survey results. The proportion of people voicing a great deal or fair amount of trust in local government has generally hovered in the high 60 to low 70 percent range during that time.
Meanwhile, the trust level in state government has experienced ups and downs. It slid to 53 percent in the years following 1999, around the time the so-called dot-com bubble burst. And it dropped to 51 percent after the 2008 onset of the Great Recession.
Breaking down the results along party lines, the most recent survey indicates that trust in state and local government is highest among Republicans.
Sixty-six percent of Republicans expressed a great deal or fair amount of trust in state government, compared to 62 percent of Independents and 58 percent of Democrats. Looking to the local level, 75 percent of Republicans said they have a great deal or fair amount trust in government, along with 71 percent of Independents and 66 percent of Democrats.
In an analysis of the poll results, Gallup’s Justin McCarthy writes: “Despite Republicans' high trust in state and local governments, even independents and Democrats have had fairly high confidence in these lower levels of government—especially compared with their confidence in the federal government's executive and legislative branches.”
A Gallup survey conducted in June found that 55 percent of Americans prefer a theory of government that concentrates power at the state level, as opposed to the federal level.
The poll about trust in state and local government was conducted between Sept. 7 and 11. It relied on a random sample of 1,020 adults contacted on landlines and cell phones, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of those surveyed, the margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
More information about the poll, including charts showing past survey results dating back to the 1970s, can be found here.
Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.