When it comes to Washington controversies, most American voters think Benghazi, the IRS and the government’s electronic surveillance program are serious matters. A Fox News poll also finds that less than four in 10 voters trust the federal government.
The new poll, released Thursday, finds 37 percent of voters answer “yes” when asked: “would you say you generally trust the federal government?” Six in 10 say they don’t trust the government, down a touch from a high of 62 percent (June 2013 and July 2011).
One thing that is sure to erode trust is a scandal, and 78 percent of voters consider the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a serious matter, including 52 percent who say “very serious.” Just over half (53 percent) see government surveillance of everyday Americans as “very serious” and 44 percent feel that way about the IRS targeting conservative groups.
Partisanship also shapes views on trustworthiness. In 2002, the first time this question was asked on a Fox News poll, 47 percent of Democrats said yes, they trust the government. That increased to 53 percent in February 2009, about a month after President Obama was inaugurated, and it stands at 55 percent in the new poll. The trend is reversed and more dramatic among Republicans: 63 percent trusted the government in 2002, while 32 percent felt that way in 2009 and just 19 percent trust Uncle Sam today.
For independents, trust was 53 percent in 2002, 35 percent in 2009 and 31 percent now.
In all, that’s an increase in trust of eight percentage points among Democrats from the days of the George W. Bush administration, and a decrease of 44 points among Republicans and 22 points among independents.
Only about a quarter of voters think the Obama administration has lived up to the promise of being the most transparent White House in history.
About a third of voters think the Obama administration has been less open and transparent than previous administrations (34 percent). That’s up nine points since early in Obama’s presidency when 25 percent felt that way (August 2010).
The poll finds 27 percent of voters agree with the president that this White House is more open than others, down from a high of 32 percent (2010 and 2012). Comparing sentiment today to that early in the Obama administration, the decline in those saying this White House is more open than others comes mostly from Democrats (-10 points) and independents (-11 points).
Overall, the largest number of voters -- 38 percent -- believes the transparency of the Obama White House is about the same as previous administrations. And 40 percent felt that way in 2010.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,025 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from May 10, 12-13, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.