Sample Political Science Paper on American’s Trust in Government

One of the questions that is often put to several Americans by many survey research firms such as the Pew Research Center is the level and how often they trust the government in Washington to do what is deemed right or is in line with campaign promises. Over the past 50 or so years, it has been easy for Americans to arrive at the conclusion that the government barely does anything. As a result, the level of trust among citizens has been declining at an alarming rate in the past several decades. Research indicates that American’s trust on the government continues to deteriorate till today. Americans have an in-born tendency to raise questions on whether government is committed to its aims and efforts. In the colonial era, the colonists’ trust in King George III declined, and this was the reason for the breakaway that paved the way for the Declaration of Independence. In contemporary American society, the decline in the level of trust in government has more to do with citizens’ increasing knowledge of the government’s operations than how the government disappoints them.

Notably, American’s level of trust has been on a downward trend over the years. The first survey of American’s trust in government was conducted by the American National Election Study (A.N.E.S.) in 1958. The trust level at this time was encouraging with 73 percent of adults affirming their trust in the federal government. However, the erosion of trust in government began in the 1960s with this being attributed to event such as the Vietnam War, Watergate scandal and economic struggles (Vavreck). Other reasons given for the decline in trust levels are the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the decision of Gerald Ford to pardon Mr. Nixon, various energy crises, as well as stagflation. It has been rather an uphill task for the American’s trust in government to go up following the mentioned events. In the 1960s, people under the age of 30 showed a more significant level of trust in Washington than did older adults aged above 60. However, this did not last long as the confidence and trust levels in government deteriorated further in the 1970s. The trend changed in the mid-1980s and fell again in the mid-1990s and has failed to record a significant improvement ever since. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans saying they trust the government has never passed 30 percent. The different in trust levels in government differs depending on political and racial lines. In 2017, during Trump’s (Republican) administration, 22 percent of Republicans and independents leaning toward the Republican party stated that they trusted the government. In contrast, only 15 percent of Democrats and independents leaning toward the Democratic Party affirmed their trust in the government in Washington (Vavreck). From the 1970s to the current times, the level of trust in government tends to be higher among members of the ruling party than members of the party in opposition.

There are a number of events that lead Americans to re-evaluate their feelings toward government. The way government reacts or responds to world events such as economic recessions, moments of terrorism, political scandals, and declarations of war has been integral to the increasing trust levels in government. In the 1980s, for instance, polls conducted indicated that only 29 percent of Americans trusted the government of the time. However, efforts by Ronald Reagan to help in recovery from an economic crisis at the time saw the figure jump to almost 50 percent. Also, following government’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the trust rose to 60 percent (Vavreck). The figure fell toward the 2010s following events such as the war in Iraq, the financial crisis of 2007, Hurricane Katrina, bank bailouts, as well as the rising debts.

There is every reason to be worried about how much trust citizens have in their government. As already mentioned, the financial crisis of 2008 in the U.S. took a toll on how much trust Americans had in the government in Washington. One of the challenges a government can face as it seeks a path to economic recovery and growth is the lack of knowledge on the policies to be chosen as well as how the policies ought to be implemented. There is no doubt that government’s capacity or ability to implement various policies depends on the trust citizens have on government (OECD 20). In the event citizens barely trust government, support for crucial reforms for markets and institutions will be hard to mobilize. A disadvantage of citizens’ low trust levels in government is lower compliance rates with set rules and regulations. Also, low trust in government makes citizens more risk-averse, which in turn could lead to delayed investments, employment decisions, as well as innovations that could be crucial for a nation to regain economic competitiveness. Moreover, trust in government is the cornerstone of effective and efficient policy making during good and bad times (OECD 20). Governments must consider investing in trust if they are to restore economic growth and promote social cohesion.

Being a citizen means legally belonging to a certain country as well as having or enjoying the rights that come with the same. The concept of citizenship can be traced to ancient Greece where the aspect of citizenship was taken seriously. In Ancient Greek, Mediterranean trade took center stage and the urban centers where people congregated and traded were known as city states. Greeks often referred to the city states as polis. There was the need to identify to polis such as Spartan, Athenian, or Corinthian and to distinguish the true members of the polis from foreigners hence the birth of the concept of citizenship. In America today, the concept of citizenship has been majorly influenced by the ancient Greeks. The need to distinguish Americans and foreigners has seen them enjoy various rights and freedoms. For instance, it is only people identified as American citizens who can enjoy various rights such as that of voting, speech, and others (OECD 27). This is a result of the influence of Greek idea of citizenship whereby inhabitants of various polis were given rights to distinguish them from foreigners.

Citizenship is majorly based on political knowledge and the level of participation in government decision and policy-making. In essence, citizenship can be defined as how in informed or active a person is in a given political community (Popa 6). By having political knowledge, Americans can be involved in or participate in various activities that influence government activities or actions such as lobbying, engaging in protests or public rallies, or serving the government in various capacities such as a jury. The more involved Americans are in various government activities, they more the exercise the status as citizens of the nation. However, research shows that the failure of American’s to exercise their various rights as citizens is because of significant gaps in political knowledge.



Works Cited

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Trust in government, policy effectiveness and the governance agenda.” Government at a glance (2013).,

Popa, Sebastian Adrian. “Politically Competent: Citizens: The Role of Predispositions and Political Context in Comparative Perspective.” (2015).,

Vavreck, Lynn. “The Long Decline of Trust in Government, and Why That Can Be Patriotic.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 July 2015,