State and Local Governments Trusted More than Feds

December 02, 2013, 10:13 PM GMT+0

Less than a third of Americans trust the federal government to provide services competently, but only local government is more trusted than not.

Living in a federal country like the United States can make dealings with the government that little bit more complicated than in other countries, what with having to deal with federal, state and local agencies. Exactly who is responsible for what can become a contested issue, and recent years have seen a prolonged dispute between the federal government and state governments as to whether or not states can enforce and interpret federal immigration laws.

The latest research from YouGov shows that trust in the federal government is significantly lower than in other levels of government. 31% of Americans have at least 'some' trust in the federal government's ability to provide good services, while 61% have 'only a little' or 'none at all'. Trust is much higher in state governments, with 43% having at least some trust in their ability to provide good services, while local government is the only level of government where people are more likely to be trusting (48%) than distrusting (45%).

Trust in the federal government does depend on political affiliation, however, with Democrats (53%) being much more likely to have at least 'some' trust in the federal government than either Independents (21%) or Republicans (16%). 81% of Republicans have little or no trust in the ability of the federal government to provide competent service.

Interestingly, attitudes towards the federal government also differ significantly according to household income. Only 27% of people in households earning less than $40,000 a year have at least 'some' trust in the federal government, the lowest level of any income bracket. People earning between $80-100,000 a year are the most trusting, with 46% having some trust and 51% having little or no trust, the highest trust levels of any income bracket.

Asked about the competency of state governments, a similar number (57%) of Democrats trust in their ability to deliver competent services, but Independents (35%) and Republicans (39%) are much more trusting of state governments than the federal government, though each are still more likely to distrust state governments than trust them.

Obviously, however, people have different expectations from each level of the federal government: few people would expect the federal government to do a good job at tackling graffiti in a small town or, on the other hand, trust county governments with running the Army. People tend to say that the federal government is best suited to handling issues like border protection (66%) and the protection of civil liberties (55%) and civil rights (58%), while few think that the federal government is in a good position to control public roads (9%) or education (18%).