Data Reveals Americans’ Distrust in Government
Public trust in government has been on the decline over the years, but recent events have deepened the divide between Americans and the elected officials who represent them.
The COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, social media and the 2020 presidential election have gripped the nation and amplified distrust across the country.
From corruption to cover ups, we looked at distrust in government by analyzing more than 1,700 terms and keywords related to government distrust in every state via Google search trends data. The results highlight disproportionately popular keywords and terms in each state.
Government Distrust by State
It’s clear that Americans' level of distrust varies by state and party affiliation. For example, blue states, or states that vote predominantly Democratic, were more likely to search for “Trump lies” while red states, or states that vote predominately Republican, were more likely to search for “Deep State,” or variations of the phrase.
Overall, “Deep State” was the most common search term in 15 states, followed by terms related to distrust in President Donald Trump, which were the most common in eight states.
It’s interesting to note that some states appear to show a high level of distrust in elected officials within their own party.
For example, “Bernie Sanders corrupt” was the most searched term in Vermont, which is the state that Sen. Sanders represents. The same can be said for Illinois (“JB Pritzker corrupt”), Georgia (“Brian Kemp corrupt”), Colorado (“Cory Gardner lies”), South Carolina (“Lindsey Graham lies”), Tennessee (“Marsha Blackburn corrupt”), Arizona (“Martha McSally lies”), Kentucky (“Mitch McConnell corrupt”), Utah (“Mitt Romney corrupt”) and Missouri (“Roy Blunt corrupt”).
In terms of searches related to distrust in Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, three states showed a high level of distrust in the candidate by searching the most for “Biden corrupt,” including Louisiana, Minnesota and Nevada.
In order to determine how these search terms correlate to Americans’ views on distrust in government, we surveyed 2,024 people across the country. The survey responses gave us insight into how much trust Americans have in elected officials, branches of government, government agencies, the 2020 presidential election as well as the management and information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to respondents, slightly less than half (45%) say they do not have very much trust in elected officials or politicians and a majority (51%) feel they do not have a voice to determine what the government does on their behalf.
A staggering 54% say they either have “very little” trust or “no trust” at all in the federal government. However, levels of trust increase when asked about trust in state and local governments.
Overall, most respondents say they have either a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of trust in their local and state governments compared to 44% who feel the same way about the federal government.
COVID-19 and Trust
When it comes to delivering accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have overwhelmingly put their trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to respondents. More than three in five (67%) say they trust the CDC when it comes to COVID-19 updates and information compared to 56% who say they have “very little” or “no trust” at all in receiving accurate information from the federal government.
2020 Election and Trust
With the upcoming 2020 presidential election taking place on Nov. 3 during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, concerns have been raised about the fairness of the voting process and accuracy of the election results.
According to respondents, one-third (33%) say they do not have faith and trust in the 2020 election process. However, there appears to be more trust in in-person voting rather than mail-in ballots with 75% saying they trust their in-person ballot will be counted fairly and accurately compared to 63% feeling the same about mail-in ballots.
In terms of political affiliation, independents expressed the most concern with this year’s election process as 43% say they do not have trust and confidence in the process along with 34% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans.
It’s up to Americans to decide who they trust to represent them, and voting is one of the tools the nation can use to signify their endorsement of trust, but it doesn’t end at the ballot box. Americans also must hold their representatives accountable well after the election in order to protect and preserve our civil liberties.
For this report, we surveyed 2,024 self-reporting Americans from Oct. 5 to Oct. 7, 2020. 47% were male and 53% were female with an average age of 37. Party affiliation: Republican: 32%; Democrat: 40%; Independent: 22%; No affiliation: 6%. Income: Under $20K: 13%; $20-40K: 23%; $40-60K: 26%; $60-80K: 19%; $80K-$100K: 9%; Over $100K: 10%.
We also analyzed more than 1,700 search terms and keywords related to government distrust in every state via Google search trends data. This data included terms related to corruption, elected officials, cover ups, false claims and lies. The terms in each state represent disproportionately popular terms, or terms that were searched more compared to their counterparts in other states.