Public trust in government near historic low

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Public trust in government is near its lowest point since pollsters first began asking about it in 1958, the Pew Research Center says.

Pew's average of polls last found public trust in government in excess of 50 percent for a brief time after September 11, 2001. Other than that, Pew says a majority has not trusted the government since before President Richard Nixon resigned, and currently only about a quarter of Americans do.

Democrats currently trust government at roughly twice the rate of Republicans and independents. Trust declined among all groups after the financial crisis and bailouts, but it recovered and grew for Democrats after the first election of President Obama.

The first poll about trust in government, taken during the Eisenhower administration, found it at 73 percent. It inched up during the Kennedy administration, but dropped more than 10 percentage points during Lyndon Johnson's presidency.

The decline continued during Nixon's presidency, plummeting to below 40 percent by the time he resigned.

President George H. W. Bush's term proved volatile. Trust declined quickly amid concerns about budget deficits, then jumped after the first Gulf War.

Pew considers poll respondents to trust the government when they say they do most of the time or always. Respondents fall under "distrust" if they say they trust government only some of the time or never.

Economic conditions seem to impact trust in government, but sometimes there is no relation. Trust in government steadily declined in the early 1990s even though the unemployment rate also did, for example. Consumer confidence held above 50 percent during George W. Bush's presidency until the financial crisis hit, but trust in government dropped fairly constantly from 2002 on.

For more:
- go to Pew's interactive feature on public trust in government

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