Chart: So, Who Do You Trust?

Public trust in government is at an all-time low, since the 1950s, according to recent Pew research:

Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 19% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (16%)


But it is not just the government,as an institution, that the public no longer trusts, it seems to be most institutions. Of 14 institutions (government, military, Supreme Court, Congress, banks, big business, small business, medical system, public education, labor unions, etc.), the percentage of Americans who by and large trust these institutions has gone down because of the Great Recession and has not recovered (Gallup research)


And specific institutions have precipitously fallen out of favor since the Great Recession, as shown in the table below.  Only the Military and Police have had greater than 50% strong confidence of the public and kept it, since 2006.



Democratic Complacency

Is not voting a sign of contentment or alientation? — the perrenial political science question.

Only 58% of the eligible voters actually voted in the 2012 US presidential election — a  historic election, given the first black candidate was running.  While regional voting rates varied dramatically, 2012 was not a impressive civic participation year.

A New York Times article showed data on the American electorate’s participation rates, which is included below.

Is not voting a sign of contentment or alientation? — the perrenial political science question.

Before we look at who (doesn’t) vote in the US elections, let’s look at how the US compares against 34 other democracies.  The answer: pretty badly.  Other countries with near single party control (Mexico and South Korea), something that might promote voter apathy, have higher turnout than the US.  Countries with turbulent and arguably dysfunctional governments (Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy), something that might lead to voter alienation, have higher turnouts than the US.


Perhaps American voters are just happily complacent, as judged by their low participation, and contrary to media reports of the alienated electorate.  The 2016 election will be a test of that theory and the contrary alientation theory, which is used to explain the Trump core voter demogrpahic.

But let’s look back at the 2012 election data as a baseline of American voter civic participation.