Trust in Government: Is it a Factor in the American Mindset?

Abstract: Trust in government is a vital issue in the American political system. It involves a lot of factors that I believe could create a solid basis for a hypothesis. Income, class and race are believed to be three of the most solid factors for this particular issue regarding trust in government. Through various literature reviews, one can conclude that the American people do not trust government. As I grow further in my observation as a citizen of the country, I come to the same conclusions personally.

The political phenomenon that drives my curiosity directs my mind to social issues. I question the trust of Americans regarding lingering issues. I question the social and preeminent lifestyles in America and how it affects and controls the mind set of countries all over the world. I question how the news and media promote the economy in America and compare them to the rest of the world. I question how the motives of the American government in relation to lies and dishonesty in our political system are weighed. My curiosity is driven by these questions. I choose to digest my curiosity chains into one short question…What influences how one might trust or mistrust government. After all my research, I hypothesized that people do not trust government. In order to support this conclusion that government cannot be trusted I will be supporting my thesis with liable secondary and primary sources. My hypothesis is as follows:

H1: Minorities are more likely to mistrust government than the majority

H2: People from a class above middle class are more likely to trust government

H3: People who make an higher income are more likely to trust government than people who are not high income earners.

My question is further hypothesized that race, class and income does affect trust in government; How one might trust or mistrust the government? According to microcase data, minorities make less than 12 percent of the all the income in America including the wealthy; African Americans make 0% of the distributed income in America.

I will begin with a definition,” the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustee, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party,” (Amitabh Ojiha and M. P. Gupta, 1998) is called trust in government. The answer to my previously posted question is as follows, “…the cumulative outcome of exchanges between political authorities on the one hand and citizens on the other determines the level of public trust in government.” (Jack Citrin, September 1974) For example, is a black man who is homeless because he lost his job because he was fired over a white male that went to Harvard with him and was chosen because he was supposedly more professional? Does he trust government due to his present situation? My guess is no. In an article, Political Issues and Trust in Government is an idea expressed concerning how in a democratic politic it is imperative that the government have the trust of the people or else a revolution could be at stake for them. “Political issues and trust in government: 1964-1970″ makes an important contribution to our understanding of the sharp increase in political cynicism of the American public. (Jack Citrin; Dec 1970)” The circumstances leads him to believe that his lay off was due to cultural bias that is permitted by the government. My observation is that anytime something unfair or unfavorable happens to a man or woman that is not the majority the blame is usually dispensed towards the government of that society or country.

America’s political history supports the thought of people mistrust in government as hypothesized, ” American political history is replete with new parties and politicians who campaign on the platform that the major parties are failing to address the major issues of the time.” (Geoff Peterson and J. Mark Wrighton, 1998) Also, ” …voters …believe current officeholders are corrupt, incompetent, insensitive or all of the above.”( Geoff Peterson and J. Mark Wrighton, 1998).

My construct supports that , ” political efficacy and trust- among the most frequently used survey measures of general public attitudes- are often maligned for their lack of reliability and validity.” ( Craig, Niemi, Silver, Jan 10 2005) The American history also lends itself to mistrust government. “… It was discovered that most Americans felt relatively efficacious and moderately trusting toward government in the 1950s and early 1960s.” ( Craig, Niemi, Silver, Jan 10 2005)

Bias is unavoidable. I stem to avoid bias by measuring the validity and reliability of my data using crosstubulations measuring race, class and income. I also plan on using credible secondary resource that show historical and factual data that can be measured based on reliability and for validity, data that are from credible sources and dates from the past to the present with consistent results from the previous studies administered for trust in government in America.

If one were to truly measure trust in government, one would need to touch upon governmental corruption. ” Studies of the effects of political corruption typically fall into one of the two camps; those that look at electoral consequences of corrupt behavior, and those that focus on its economic impact. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of researchers found that corruption substantially reduces a candidate’s vote share,” ( Neal D. Woods, Jan 18 2008) its seems as if measuring vote share; which is potentially determined by how corrupt the government elects are is a good and liable way to avoid bias.

People who are of color, lower income and or lower class are less likely to put their trust in government than people are of the opposite spectrum. Most people have a lack of trust in government but it depends primarily sometimes on these issues: race, class and income. I hypothesis that based on the popularity of these issues such as race, class and income trust in government will either increase or decrease.

“The results … indicate that states whose public officials have higher conviction rates on federal corruption charges have significantly weaker…programs.” (Neal D Woods, Jan. 18, 2008) Corruption even within governmental programs serves as a credible source for people’s mistrust of government. These programs are in the public eye; so it is sensible to think that the outcome of such programs would be a liable way to measure corruption; thus trust in government.

The goal of my research paper is potentially to describe the system we live in with a focus on the social aspects. However, I specifically focus on trust and government and what generates this from potential citizens. My goal in simple terms is to describe and show that race, class, and income generally are prime focuses in the society that influences trust in government.

My research question is vital because it explains why people participate in government and why some do not for an example. It shows potential flaws in the government that needs to be mended. It describes how an increase or decrease in trust in government can build or break down societies and potentially the social life of that country, state or region.

The documents I had researched as I had hypothesized based on my personal observations periodically all stated that people do not have trust in government. It also supported the idea that race, class and income are also attributes in our culture that can either aide or damage trust in government over some period. I believe my research is reliable and valid because I had observed the same and it is interesting that all my data pointed to the same conclusion. My literature did help me define and refine my research question but my personal analysis was the most helpful. I used logic, observation and critical thinking but the literatures pointed me in that direction.

People who are of color, lower income and or lower class are less likely to put their trust in government than people are of the opposite spectrum. Most people have a lack of trust in government but it depends primarily sometimes on these issues: race, class and income. I hypothesis that based on the popularity of these issues such as race, class and income trust in government will either increase or decrease.


1. Citrin , Jack (1974 Sep). The Political Relevance of Trust in Government. American Political Science Review, 68, Retrieved 11/05/08,

2. Craig c. Stephens, Richard G. Niemi and Glenn E. Silver, (2005, Jan, 10). Political Efficacy and Trust: A Report on the NES Pilot Study Items. Springer Netherlands, 12, Retrieved 11/22/08, from

3. Green DP, J Citrin, Presidential Leadership and Resurgence of Trust in Government. (1986). In British Journal of Political Science [Web]. Retrieved 11/05/08,

4. Hardin, R (1999). Do we want trust in government?. Democracy and trust, Retrieved 11/05/08,

5. Ojha Amitabh, M.P. Gupta, (1998). Does E- Governance Enhance Trust in Government. Computer Society of India, Retrieved 11/22/08,

6. Woods, Neal (2008 Jan 18). The Policy Consequences of Political Corruption: Evidence from State Environmental Programs. Social Science Quarterly, 89, Retrieved 11/22/08,

7. Wrighton Mark.J, Geoff Peterson, (1998). Expressions of Distrust Third Party Voting and Cynicism in Government . Political Behavior, 20, Retrieved 11/22/08

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