Unpacking Trust in Government, AAPOR May 2022

Sept. 7, 2022

Surveys have indicated for decades that Americans’ trust in all levels of government has been declining. Since 1960, Americans’ trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems has fallen from roughly 75% to about 20% (Pew Research Center, 2021). However, the questions used to poll Americans’ trust in government have focused primarily on how much individuals broadly trust the government. This survey seeks to provide a deeper understanding of Americans’ trust in government by decomposing trust into four distinct components: (1) appropriateness of involvement; (2) transparency of what the government does; (3) expertise or competence; (4) reliability of performance. The purpose of the survey is to provide a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of which dimensions of trust are declining and how they are inter-related. We examine these components across five policy areas: bank regulation, immigration control, environmental protection, COVID-19 response, and health insurance accessibility. Preliminary results indicate that perceptions of government performance or reliability are more strongly related to measures of overall trust than appropriateness of involvement. Naila Rahman, Rachael Johnson, Brian Lee, Osama Safeer, and Edward Freeland,. Presented at the Annual AAPOR Conference, Chicago, May 2022.