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Spring 2003
ISSN 0890-913X
Volume 18, Number 2

Trust in Government as a Constitutional Consequence

J. R. Clark, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Dwight R. Lee, The University of Georgia
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JournalofPrivateEnterpriseTrustinGovernmentasaConstitutionalConsequence*J.R.ClarkUniversityofTennesseeatChattanoogaDwightR.LeeTheUniversityofGeorgiaTrustingovernmenthasfallentolevelsthatdisturbmanyofthosewhoconcernthemselveswithpublicopinionanditsimpactonthepoliticalprocess.Forexample,JosephNye(1997:4),DeanofHarvard=sKennedySchoolofGovernment,worriesthatAifpeoplebelievethatgovernmentisincompetentandcannotbetrusted,theyarelesslikelytoprovide(critical)resources.Without(these)resources,governmentcan=tperformwell....@PatriciaMcGinnis(1997),PresidentandCEOoftheCouncilforExcellenceinGovernment,hastestifiedthatAWell-led,wellmanagedgovernmentthatcanproducebetterresultsiswhatAmericansarelookingfor...Majoritiesabove60%saidwastefulspending,selfinterestedleaders,unkeptpromises,andcrime,poverty,anddrugsarethecausesoflowconfidenceingovernment.@Itisundeniablethattrustingovernment,asmeasuredbypublicopinionpolls,hasdeclinedsubstantiallysincethe1960s.DatafromUniversityofMichiganpollingthatbeganin1958,showtrustingovernmentpeakingaround1964,whenabout75%oftherespondentsansweredAalways@orAmostofthetime@tothequestion,AHowmuch*WewouldliketothanktheEarhartFoundationforsupportingourworkonthispaper.Anyerrorsare,ofcourse,thesoleresponsibilityoftheauthors.ofthetimedoyouthinkyoucantrustthegovernmentinWashingtontodowhatisrightCjustaboutalways,mostofthetime,oronlysomeofthetime?@Sincethattime,trusthasdeclinedsignificantly(thoughnotmonotonically),withonlyabout25%answeringAalways@orAmostofthetime@in1994.1Thisdeclineintrustisclearlysomethingtobeworried1SeeFigure3-1,Orren(1997:81).Thereissomeevidencethattrustingovernmentincreasedsomewhatafter1994,butthelong-runtrendintrusthasbeendecidedlydownward.1
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