Americans and Washington

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has just released its report for 2014.  The intention of this survey is to measure the level and the quality of customer satisfaction from the various public and private institutions.  What sticks out in this report?  Americans view the federal government as dreadful. 

Americans are more dissatisfied with federal government services than at any time since this survey began.  The survey also found that in three of the four aspects of service – “process,” “information,” and “customer services” – satisfaction with the federal government was at the lowest level ever.

The ACSI survey has eleven different private and public organizations that are tested for satisfaction, and all nine of the different categories of private institutions are ranked higher by Americans than the federal government.  There are two levels of “government” service tested, “federal government” and “local and federal government,” and “federal” is viewed as worse than “state and local” government services.  Even when the federal government is broken down by agency – Defense, Agriculture, Treasury, etc. – not a single federal agency is as high as the aggregate average for private and public institutions.

The ACSI dovetails with every other poll or survey relating to trust and confidence in the federal government.  Gallup at the end of 2014 released polling data that showed that public trust in the ability of the federal government to handle international affairs was at the lowest level ever and that trust in the ability of the federal government to handle domestic affairs was at the lowest level ever.   

Gallup showed that trust in the executive branch was not at the lowest level ever (that nadir was reached when Nixon resigned forty years ago), but this confidence was still near its lowest.  Trust in the legislative branch is at the lowest level ever as well, as is trust in the judicial branch.

This is a problem of trust not in government generally, but in the federal government specifically.  When Gallup in other polls looked at professions most trusted and mistrusted, there was a chasm among the three levels of government.  “Local officeholders” have by far the highest level of trust for politicians.  “State governors” do almost as well, and “State officeholders” are a little bit lower, but about the same.  “Members of Congress” rank much lower. 

Gallup Poll data also shows not only that trust in “state government” is much higher than trust in the federal government, but trust in state government has been stable over the decades.  Trust in local government is even higher – near historic highs. 

Pew Research shows the same patterns, although it does not look at state or local governments.  Public trust in “government,” defined as federal government and judged by presidential administrations back to Eisenhower, is at the lowest level ever (lower, that is, even than during Watergate and the Clinton impeachment). 

The Rasmussen Poll last April, also looking just at the federal government, showed a very low level of confidence, with a stunning 54% of Americans seeing Washington as a threat to their liberty and 22% seeing Washington as a protector of their liberty. 

A Neilson and Harris Poll of August 2014, which measured “trust” and “distrust” of institutions to handle personal information properly, showed the federal government second from the bottom of ten categories in “trust” and second from the top in “no trust.”  This poll, like Gallup, provided state and local government, and in every category, these other levels of government were more trusted than the federal government. 

These polls show what most conservatives know already.  The farther government gets from ordinary people and their lives, the worse it is seen to work, the more it is seen as a means of acquiring wealth and power, the more destructive to the values we cherish.  People correctly see the federal government, which lives in the Never-Never Land of Washington, as about as close to America generally as London was to the colonies in 1775. 

There are seeds of a peaceful and constitutional revolution.  Who will wage political war against Imperial Washington, around which are nested the highest-income counties in America?  Who will declare what most of us know – the separation of parties is really this: the Party of Washington and the Party of America?  The man or woman who can truly make this case will be able to connect with voters in a way no one has since Reagan.