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Factors that influence public trust in government Essay

Trust is an intricate interpersonal as well as organizational construct, which occurs when parties who have certain favorable perceptions of each other allow this relationship to develop and reach the expected levels. Trust is an effective way through which social, economic and political relationship transaction costs can be lowered . In political arena, citizens may either be trusted or distrusted in their capacities to choose elected officials or support for a variety of public policies based on the evaluation of citizen’s competence to make decisions in this domain.

Government officials, on the other hand, may be trusted or distrusted in coming up with and implementing public policy, based on the expectations of knowledge as well as the expertise of the officials involved in the policy making process. There is a large proportion of the U. S population that continues to distrust the government in spite of the presence of an assortment of programs aimed at restoring public trust in government . Lack of trust in government by the people is strongly associated to the way people feel concerning the overall state of a country.

Even though personal satisfaction is slowly increasing and confidence in local and national government is increasing due to presence of a thriving economy, restoration in addition to maintenance of public interest remains a major and challenging objective . Regardless of the fact that the national mood and trust in the government have increased since the mid 1990s, a considerable proportion of the United States citizens is still highly unsatisfied with the status of the nation, an aspect that lowers their trust in government .

Besides persistent worry concerning the moral health of American society, a factor that lowers the satisfaction of the people to the state of the nation, lack of contentment with the honesty of the elected officials is another major factor that leads to distrust of government. A variety of ethical concerns are now lowering the positive attitudes of the American people towards the government. Dissatisfaction with political leaders is one of the most important factors that result in lack of trust in government by the people .

This is due to the numerous criticisms of the way politicians, who form the functional part of the government, carries out their duties. However, there is no clear indication that discontentment and distrust with the government are near a crisis phase . The public desire to be served by government officials has remained steady for more than three decades. Distrust and discontentment with the government has not resulted in disregard for nation’s laws. It also does not erode patriotism or discourage public officials from carrying out their duties.

Even in times when public trust in government has gone down, a percentage of the population still recommend a government job to their children. Lack of trust in government does not imply that the public is angry at it; rather it implies that the level of frustration emanating from poor delivery of services by government officials is very high. Increase in the level of frustration deteriorates the quality in addition to the nature of dialogue between the Americans and their leaders. Factors that influence public trust in government

Lack of trust in government by the people is one disastrous factor that can negatively impact on the functioning of the government. This is due to the fact that numerous governmental activities call for cooperation between the government and the people. Without the cooperation of the people, it would be totally impossible for the government to implement some policies . Besides challenges in implementation of policies, distrust in government has got other adverse consequences. Some of these negative consequences are that voter turnout during presidential elections has become significantly low .

In democratic nations, the trust of the people in government is a major factor that contributes to the growth of economy in addition to providing a base on which political leaders can make rational decisions. The magnitude of public trust in government influences the ability of the government to generate the revenue required to support public programs . However, it can also be considered as disastrous factor for people to totally trust the government without questioning its operations. Putting total trust in the government may result in the government degenerating into making ineffective and bad policies.

In a number of studies conducted by the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press to determine the factors that result in distrust in government, Americans were revealed to be less critical of the government in various ways as compared to the way it was in the previous decades . Even though these studies revealed increased distrust in government by the people, evaluation of public workers and specific government departments found out that the delivery of services had improved drastically over the last few years.

These studies revealed that only a few people criticize the federal government as compared to the case in the 1990s, when the government was regarded as inefficient, wasteful, unresponsive and too stringent. The numbers of those who think that business operations are negatively affected by the strict regulation strategies employed by the government were also revealed to have dropped. Nevertheless, distrust of government by the American population remains substantial, only less than 40% of the population maintains its trust in the government all the time .

More than 50% of the population makes it clear that they are frustrated by the government rather than angered by it . Currently, in the United States as revealed by Pew Research Center for The People and The Press, more people have trust in local government than they have in federal government . This is a factor contrary to the way it was about two decades ago, when Americans were more contented with the federal government than with the local government. Trust in state and local government has however grown considerably along with considerable reduction in trust in federal government .

Pew Research Center surveys however did not reveal presence of adverse consequences to the country as a result of distrust in government. One of the major factors that influence the public trust in government is the mode of operation of the politicians who lead the government. Failure of elected officials to serve the public in accordance with the interest of the people results in decline of public trust in government. Incompetence of elected officials also results in deterioration of public trust in government. Public trust in government comprise of expectation of fiduciary obligation and responsibility .

The perception of fiduciary responsibility is grounded on the belief that some people in society have moral obligation as well as the responsibility to express special concern for interest of others above their own. In policy development, fiduciary obligation is illuminated by the expectation that politicians and other public officials will develop policies that will benefit the public in addition to making decisions based on the interest of the public rather than on personal and partisan gains . Citizens willingly go along with policies they regard as convenient and made within a legitimate process.

On the contrary, citizens do not go along with policies they regard as problematic and developed within illegitimate procedures . Development of policies is therefore a major factor that determines whether the public will have trust in the government or not. Various factors that emanate from the developed policies may also lead to development of or decline in public trust in government. These policy outcomes include: peace, prosperity, in addition to other desirable aspects that are associated with public satisfaction with the services of the government .

The direction of the country is the other factor that determines the level of public trust in government. Perception that everything is going in the right direction results in increase in trust of public trust in government. On the contrary, if citizens perceive that everything the government does in addition to the direction of the country is not headed in the right direction; they may lose their trust in government. In addition, public perception that the government officials are to blame for the adverse circumstances that lock the country, may result in a decline of public trust in government .

The ability of the government to provide security to the public is another factor that can increase public trust in government. The public elects public officials expecting them to come up with policies and strategies aimed at generating and maintaining security of the nation. Failure to develop security policies lowers public trust in government, whereas development of security policies in addition to implementation of these policies results in augmentation of public trust in government. A government that does not guarantee security to its people should not expect the public to have trust in it .

Reverence to the rights of individuals is the other factor that greatly influences the trust of the public in government. Citizens look upon the government to protect them from violation of their rights. If a government is characterized by rampant violation of the rights of citizens, it should not expect to have public trust in it. People highly detest government officials who violate their rights. Public trust is very low in a government that does not guarantee protection of the rights of individuals who make up the greater community. Nevertheless, public trust in government increases when government officials respect the rights of citizens.

Economic trend is the other factor that can greatly affect the level of public trust in government. The public looks upon the government to come up with strategies aimed at providing a base for economic growth. Failure of the government to develop such policies destroys its trust by the public. Research conducted by Pew Research Center survey concerning public trust in government make it clear that the trust of Americans in their government tend to increase at times when the country is enjoying economic growth and decline when the country is going through economic recession .

Presidential approval is the other factor that may influence public trust in government. Perception that the president is incompetent and does not handle national matters in an appropriate manner may result in a decline in public trust in government. The president occupies a core position in government and as such, he/she is subject to public scrutiny. If the public is contented with the way the president handles national matters, its trust in government is likely to increase. Presidential approval is based to a great extent on economic growth.

The public tends to lay the blame of emergence of adverse economic conditions such as lack of employment, inflation and loss of jobs on the president. High rate of unemployment results in decline of public trust in government . The mode of service delivery by civil servants is a major factor that may destroy or build public trust in the government. This takes into account the mode of delivery of service in numerous government sectors including health, education, welfare, transport, security, and environment among many others.

Higher values of public contentment with the mode of service delivery by public service officials illuminate trust in government by the people. Accountability of the government also influences public trust. Implementation of strategies that allow for easy access to government information in order to evaluate performance and results is the other factor that influences public trust in government. A large proportion of the public’s trust rests on the government’s open accountability for its decisions, policies and mistakes .

A government that operates in privacy and refuses to reveal its mode of operation to the public is in essence getting rid of the public’s capacity to scrutinize as well as hold the government accountable. Access to information concerning the government’s mode of operation and outcomes of various government activities, is vital to increasing the capacity of the public to scrutinize the performance of the government in addition to holding the government responsible. Lack of information implies that the public cannot comprehend the context in which decisions on national matters are made .

Government’s accountability builds public trust in it due to the fact that information concerning the performance of government officials is disclosed, and strategies through which waste, inefficiency, misconduct and corruption can be tackled are developed . Conclusion It can therefore be concluded that there are numerous factors that greatly influence the public trust in government not only in the United States, but throughout the world. Lack of trust in government by the people is one disastrous factor that can negatively impact on the functioning of the government.

Putting total trust in the government may also be disastrous as it may result in the government degenerating into making ineffective and bad policies. One of the major factors that influence the public trust in government is the mode of operation of the politicians who lead the government. The direction of the country is the other factor that determines the level of public trust in government. Perception that everything is going in the right direction results in increase in trust of public trust in government.

The ability of the government to provide security to the public is another factor that can increase public trust in government. Reverence to the rights of individuals is the other factor that greatly influences the trust of the public in government. Citizens look upon the government to protect them from violation of their rights. Economic trend is the other factor that can greatly affect the level of public trust in government. The public looks upon the government to come up with strategies aimed at providing a base for economic growth.

Failure of the government to develop such policies destroys its trust by the public. The mode of service delivery by civil servants is a major factor that may destroy or build public trust in the government. Bibliography: Braithwaite, Valerie and Levi, Margaret. Trust and governance, ISBN 0871541351: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003. Chanley, Virginia. Rudolph, Thomas. and Rahn, Wendy. The Origins and Consequences of Public Trust in Government: A Time Series Analysis, Public Opinion Quarterly 64, (2000): 239-256 Dalton, Russell. The social transformation of trust in government, International Review Of

Sociology, 15, no 1 (2005): 133-154 Halloran, Liz. 2010, Pew Poll: Trust in Government Hits Near-Historic Low, http://www. npr. org /templates/story/story. php? storyId=126047343 (viewed on August 2, 2010). Hibbing, John and Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. What is it about government that Americans dislike? ISBN 0521796318: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Open The Government, n. d. Public Trust & Accountability, http://www. openthegovernment. org /article/articleview/32/1/15 (viewed on August 2, 2010). Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Trust in government: ethics

measures in OECD countries, ISBN 9264185194 OECD: Publishing, 2000. Pew Research Center. 1998, How Americans View Government: Deconstructing Distrust, http://people-press. org/report/95/how-americans-view-government (viewed on August 2, 2010) Trattner, John. Government and public trust: views from the top: selected reading from the John C. Whitehead Forum of the Council for Excellence in Government, 1997-2001, ISBN 0761823131: University Press of America, 2002. Warren, Mark. Democracy and trust, ISBN 0521646871: Cambridge University Press, 1999


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