Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Trust in Government Falls; Capuano Backs Out – Again – in Mass.

In Polling on September 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

The Gallup research organization just completed a study about people’s level of trust in the various branches of government. The poll, conducted Sept. 5-8 of 1,510 adults but released just yesterday, reveals that governmental trust levels have fallen across the board since 2009, and are well under the levels found at the beginning of 2003.

According to the study, remembering that the sampling universe is simply of adults who are not necessarily registered voters, trust in the Judiciary, the highest rated governmental entity, is off 14 points from 2009. Sixty-two percent of the respondents say they trust the Judiciary as compared to 76 percent who did four years ago.

The Executive branch is also down during the same interval, in this case 10 points, from 61 percent who expressed trust to 51 percent. Finally, the Legislative branch, which has been pilloried in opinion polls for the past several years, again finishes as the least trusted governmental segment at 34 percent. This represents a decline of 11 points from our benchmark year of 2009, but the result actually ticks upward from 30 percent at a point in 2011.

The fact that all levels of government are down significantly suggests a negative trend about Americans’ confidence in their governmental entities’ ability to implement their responsibilities.

The same sample also believes that the government has too much power. A full 60 percent of the polling sample (81 percent of Republicans; 68 percent of Independents; 38 percent of Democrats) believe government’s role in society is too vast. Thirty-two percent say the level of governmental authority is “about right”, and 7 percent say the government has too little power. Interestingly, the 7 percent “too little power” response has varied only one point during the past 10 years.

Predictably, Democrats have the highest levels of trust in government almost across the board; Independents next; and Republicans the least. The only entity rated higher among Republicans than any other partisan segment is, unsurprisingly, the Legislative branch.

Interestingly, the parties switch their views when questioned about state and local government. It is the Republicans who have the most trust in state and local government, and the Democrats the least.

Massachusetts

Early in the 2012 election cycle the common belief, promulgated by the prospective candidate himself, was that Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-7) was going to challenge then-Sen. Scott Brown (R). When Elizabeth Warren declared her candidacy, Capuano, not believing he could derail her fledgling campaign, dashed his plan to run statewide and retreated to the safety of his Cambridge-Boston House district.

Even as late as last week, as reported in this column, it appeared that Rep. Capuano was preparing to run for governor. He had hired a pollster, media consultant, and other personnel, which normally is a sure sign of an impending campaign. In the meantime, however, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced her own bid for governor and the first poll (Public Policy Polling; Sept. 20-23; 324 “usual” Democratic primary voters) gave her a 41-21-9 percent lead over Rep. Capuano and state Treasurer Steve Grossman, respectively.

Despite saying that he knows opportunities are limited, Capuano again is shying away from entering a contested primary campaign. He announced yesterday that he will remain in the House, skipping his planned open-seat gubernatorial run. The development will help Coakley cement her new-found front-runner status. Rep. Capuano will have little trouble winning a ninth term in the House.

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