We’re Studying How to Restore Trust in US Democracy

October 12, 2017  • Anthony Marx & Jamie Woodson

Thriving democracies require a strong base of both trust and distrust of government. To govern effectively, leaders need citizens to trust that they are honest and competent. To earn that trust, governments need to be open and accountable to citizens, traditionally helped by the watchdog role of a free press.

There has been a near steady decline of public trust in American democratic institutions for more than 40 years. In 1964, 76% of respondents to the American National Election Studies survey had faith in the government to do what is right “always” or “most” of the time. After the Watergate saga, trust in the government went down to 36%, and in 2015 it was only 19%. The figures are worse when asking Democrats how much they trust Republicans to run the government and vice versa.

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