The American public has more trust in the federal workforce than it has had at any time since the October 2013 government shutdown, according to just released data from a nationwide poll.
Of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed in The George Washington University Battleground Poll, 73 percent said they had either “a lot” of respect (22 percent) or “some” confidence (51 percent) in civilian federal employees. Twenty-five percent said they had “little or no confidence” in the federal workforce. [See Figure 1].
“These findings may not be a resounding affirmation of trust but they are significantly better than those recorded prior to the federal government shutdown in 2013,” wrote William C. Adams and Donna Lind Infeld, in a report from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration.
Citizen confidence in public servants had declined in recent years, due to a series of highly publicized incidents, such as the GSA conference scandal and the NSA leaks. But the new data suggests that public confidence may be rebounding.
That rebound, however, eludes America’s elected federal officials. Confidence in members of Congress and President Barack Obama remained low, according to data on their approval ratings. The President received a 51 percent disapproval rating compared to Congress’ 79 percent. “Clearly, Americans don’t blame federal workers for the shortcomings of elected officials,” said Adams, a professor of public policy and public administration in GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration in a release. “This may not be an overwhelming affirmation of trust in federal workers but it’s a lot more positive than it was before the federal shutdown last year. Americans like federal workers far more than their political bosses.”
There is also a difference of perception depending on with which party the survey respondent identified. [See Figure 2]. Democratic Party voters said they had “a lot” of confidence in federal employees (32 percent) or “some” confidence (55 percent) compared to Republicans, with just 13 percent for “a lot” and 48 percent for “some.” Twenty-three percent of Independents said they had “a lot” of confidence in federal employees and 49 percent said they felt “some” confidence in the federal workforce.
As in earlier polls, women, young respondents and African Americans showed slightly more confidence in the federal workforce.
The GW Battlefield poll also said that, by and large, Americans considered the federal government a good place to work.
“About three-quarters of those polled (73 percent) say they would encourage a young person to consider a federal job,” Adams and Lind Infeld wrote. “Only one in five (20 percent) would discourage a civil service career.”