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New Poll Finds Americans Increasingly Distrust Federal Government

FILE - Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner departs the podium during a standing ovation after he addressed colleagues during the election for the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the House Chamber in Washington, Oct. 29, 2015.

Many Americans are known to distrust government, but a new poll shows the levels of trust at “among the lowest levels in the past half-century.”

According to a Pew Research Center survey released Monday, only 19 percent of Americans trust the government “always or most of the time.”

This is in stark contrast to just 15 years ago, in the wake of the September 11th attacks, when 60 percent of Americans said they trusted the government.

Since then trust has been steadily eroding in the face of the Iraq War and the economic uncertainty.

A mere 20 percent described government-run programs as well-run.

The survey also suggests that some of the cynicism may be driven by the influence of money on political campaigns, with 76 percent of respondents saying money “has a greater influence on politics and elected officials today than in the past." Sixty-four percent said the amount of money it takes to run for president "discourages many good candidates from running."

As the political season heats up, the poll found that 55 percent of Americans said ordinary people would do a better job “solving national problems” than elected officials.

Furthermore, the survey found Americans view elected officials as dishonest and selfish compared to “typical Americans,” and 74 percent said elected officials act in their personal interest rather than in the country’s interest.

But while trust in government is waning, there are areas in which the public wants an active government. Those include “addressing issues ranging from terrorism and disaster response to education and the environment.”

Democrats vs Republicans

The survey also shows a growing polarity between Democrats and Republicans.

Eighty percent of “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents” said they wanted a smaller government with fewer services, compared to 31 percent of Democrats.

On issues like fighting terrorism, natural disasters, food and medicine safety and infrastructure, there was bipartisan agreement the government should “play a major role.”

On the issue of immigration, a hot topic in the presidential campaign, 85 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats said the government should have a “major role.”

Large differences between Republicans and Democrats were seen in issues dealing with the social safety net. Roughly one third of Republicans said the government should help people escape poverty and provide access to health care. For Democrats, the numbers were 72 percent and 83 percent respectively.

The results of the survey released Monday were based on interviews with 6,000 conducted between August 27 and October 15.

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