As state and federal officials continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery efforts, Californians are looking to their leaders for policy solutions. But how much does the public trust the government?
According to PPIC’s most recent survey, Californians are divided when it comes to trusting the state government in Sacramento to do what is right. Nearly half of Californians (47%) say they trust the state government just about always (12%) or most of the time (35%), while 51% express distrust, including 8% who volunteered that they trust the state government none of the time. The share expressing trust in the state government has increased markedly from June 2015 (6% just about always, 25% most of the time, 61% only some of the time, 6% none of the time).
Looking further back, partisan trust in the state government has become more divided over time. Today, a solid majority (63%) of Democrats express trust in the state government, compared to only 35% of independents and 13% of Republicans. Since we started tracking this question in 1999, trust among Democrats is at a record high and has been growing since the start of the Brown administration in 2011. Meanwhile, trust among Republicans is close to the record low of 9% during the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations. Among demographic groups today, Latinos (57%), Asian Americans (51%), women (50%), and lower-income adults (55%) are the most likely to express trust in the state government.
Californians tend to express less trust in the federal government than in the state government. Today, 38% of Californians say they can trust the federal government in Washington just about always or most of the time, while most express distrust—including 8% who volunteered that they can never trust the federal government.
Partisan affiliations affect trust in government. With Joe Biden as president, 46% of Democrats express trust in the federal government, a significant increase from 17% in May 2018 when Donald Trump was president. Trust among independents has also risen, from 19% in 2018 to 29% today. However, trust among Republicans has decreased during that time, from 25% to just 10%. Today, Latinos (49%), Asian Americans (45%), lower-income adults (48%), and those who did not attend college (44%) are the most likely to express trust in the federal government.
As government officials work to combat new COVID variants and boost the economy—while tackling long-term challenges like housing and infrastructure—PPIC will continue to monitor Californians’ trust in the state and federal government.