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The Associated Press: Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don't trust Washington Page 1

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Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don't trust Washington

By LIZ SIDOTI (AP) – 5 hours ago

WASHINGTON — America' s "Great Compromiser" Henry Clay called government "the great Photo 1 of 4
trust," but most Americans today have little faith in Washington' s ability to deal with the nation's

Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century , according to a
survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don 't trust the federal
government and have little faith it can solve America' s ills, the survey found.

The findings illustrate the ominous situation President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party
face as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall's elections.
Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and
lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.
FILE - In this April 15, 20010 file
Released Sunday, the survey found that just 22 percent of those questioned say they can trust
Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content photo, a couple participate in
with it. Nearly half say the government negatively affects their daily lives, a sentiment that 's the Tax Day tea protest in New
grown over the past dozen years . York. Can you trust
This anti-government feeling has driven the tea party movement, reflected in fierce protests this Washington? Nearly 80 percent
past week. of Americans say they can't and
they have little faith in the
"The government 's been lying to people for years . Politicians make promises to get elected, and massive federal bureaucracy
when they get elected , they don' t follow through," says Cindy Wanto, 57, a registered Democrat
from Nemacolin, Pa., who joined several thousand for a rally in Washington on April 15 — the tax solving the nation's ills,
filing deadline. "There' s too much government in my business. It was a problem before Obama , according to a new survey from
but he's certainly not helping fix it. "
the Pew Research Center that
Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it's interfering too shows confidence in the federal
much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be government at one of the lowest
responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in points in half century. (AP Photo/
favor of personal responsibility .
Mary Altaffer, File)
About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40
percent who want a bigger government providing more. The public was evenly divided on those
questions long before Obama was elected . Still , a majority supported the Obama administration
exerting greater control over the economy during the recession.

Only twice since the 1950s has public skepticism dipped this deeply — from 1992 to 1995 during
which time it hit 17 percent, and 1978 to 1980, bottoming out at 25 percent . The nation was
going through economic struggles during both of those periods.

"Trust in government rarely gets this low," said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan center
that conducted the survey . "Some of it' s backlash against Obama. But there are a lot of other
things going on."

And , he added: "Politics has poisoned the well."

The survey found that Obama 's policies were partly to blame for a rise in distrustful, anti-
government views . In his first year in office, the president orchestrated a government takeover of
Detroit automakers, secured a $787 billion stimulus package and pushed to overhaul the health
care system. Map
But the poll also identified a combination of factors that contributed to the electorate's hostility:
the recession that Obama inherited from President George W . Bush; a dispirited public; and
anger with Congress and politicians of all political leanings.

"I want an honest government . This isn' t an honest government . It hasn' t been for some time,"
said self-described independent David Willms, 54, of Sarasota, Fla. He faulted the White House
and Congress under both parties.

The poll was based on four surveys done from March 11 to April 11 on landline and cell phones .
The largest survey, of 2,500 adults, has a margin of sampling error of 2 .5 percentage points; the
others, of about 1,000 adults each , has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

In the short term, the deepening distrust is politically troubling for Obama and Democrats.
Analysts say out-of-power Republicans could well benefit from the bitterness toward Washington
come November , even though voters blame them, too, for partisan gridlock that hinders progress.

In a democracy built on the notion that citizens have a voice and a right to exercise it, the long-
term consequences could prove to be simply unhealthy — or truly debilitating . Distrust could lead
people to refuse to vote or get involved in their own communities. Apathy could set in, or worse —

Democrats and Republicans both accept responsibility and fault the other party for the
electorate' s lack of confidence .

"This should be a wake-up call. Both sides are guilty," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. She
pointed to "nonsense" that goes on during campaigns that leads to "promises made but not
promises kept." Still, she added: "Distrust of government is an all-American activity. It 's
something we do as Americans and there's nothing wrong with it. "

Sen . Scott Brown, a Republican who won a long-held Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts
in January by seizing on public antagonism toward Washington, said: "It 's clear Washington is 4/19/2010 3:50:24 PM

The Associated Press: Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don't trust Washington Page 2

broken. There' s too much partisan bickering to be able to solve the problems people want us to

And , he added: "It' s going to be reflected in the elections this fall."

But Matthew Dowd, a top strategist on Bush's re -election campaign who now shuns the GOP
label , says both Republicans and Democrats are missing the mark.

"What the country wants is a community solution to the problems but not necessarily a federal
government solution," Dowd said . Democrats are emphasizing the federal government, while
Republicans are saying it' s about the individual; neither is emphasizing the right combination to
satisfy Americans, he said.

On the Net:
Pew Research Center: http: // /

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press . All rights reserved.

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