Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
More than two-thirds of those surveyed in September 2011 said they had a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust and confidence in their local government, while 57 percent felt the same way about their state government.
The outlook was more dismal at the federal level: 52 percent of respondents had "not very much" confidence or "none" in the executive branch. This figure jumped to 69 percent for the legislative branch.
Local governments have traditionally enjoyed a positive perception from their constituents, according to previous Gallup results, with their confidence rating never falling below 68 percent. Confidence in state governments has been more fluid, but generally stable. It has ranged from 67 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009, before slowly climbing back to its current level. Gallup explained the 2009 dip as a response to legislators battling state budgets.
In general, state and local governments benefit from a closer promiximity to their residents, David Adkins, executive director of the Council of State Governments, tells Governing. That leads to a greater sense of responsiveness, while politics in Washington can appear "too cumbersome," he says. As a state lawmaker in Kansas for 12 years, Adkins says he couldn't go to the grocery store or his children's soccer game without being recognized and approached by one of the residents in his district, he says. People don't feel that kind of access to politicians in Washingotn.
"In politics, proximity is everything," Adkins says. "You don't have voters, you should be thinking of having relationships, and that's so much easier when you live and work among the people you serve."
Faith in both branches of the federal government has dropped steadily since 2001, although the executive branch experienced a brief reprieve in 2009 after President Barack Obama's election.
Results of the poll were based on a random sample of 1,017 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.