The BBC ran a piece with some anecdotal evidence among Trump's supporters endorsing or at least acknowleding statements about unethical behavior for all politicians.

Is the US public now more widely endorsing cynical views like "all politicians lie", "they all break the law" (and so forth) than before Trump was elected? And is this change (if it exists) specific to Republican supporters or has it affected others (Democrats, independents etc.) as well?

To be clear: I'm looking for (longitudinal) polls/surveys on this issue of cynicism (which can be construed pretty broadly) with respect to politicians, but I'm not interested in off-the-cuff arguments one way or the other.

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    Has anyone ever been quoted as stating "all politicians tell the truth"? Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:23
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    @guest271314: that's not the complement/negation of "all politicians lie". Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:36
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    It was not intended to be. Politics is about power. Which politician would not "lie" to foes to accumulate power for their constituents? There is no honor among thieves; though there are agreements to avoid issues that interfere with business. "lie" and "truth" depend on the interpretation of the faction being asked or speaking at the moment. "more widely" compared to what era and which demographic are you asking? From certain perspectives U.S. politicians are absolutely liars, from the inception of the United States; engaged in the criminal enterprise that is the United States. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:48
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    My intuition is that there's less cynicism, perhaps because as people in general grow increasingly impatient and bored with what they see, (the theatre of deception being somewhat formulaic), there's more appreciation for relative simplicity.
    – agc
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 13:19
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    @guest271314 Re "Which politician would not 'lie' to foes to accumulate power for their constituents?": Honest ones of course. Also there's the question of whether lying really would accumulate actual lasting power, or just delusional "power" that proves weaker than hoped if ever tested. Errors and lies may overlap, or not. Even if the US Constitution was 100% lies and secretly written by Satan himself, a follower of it (perhaps he's a bit of dull...) might make the error of believing those lies, yet be innocent of actual lying.
    – agc
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


Gallup tracks trust in government with a variety of questions, the relevant data that's available doesn't say much since there's only one data point for the Trump administration and most of answers can track reasonably well with the data from the previous 2 administrations. Trump himself seems to be less trusted than Bush or Obama, but trust in the other 2 branches of the federal government as well as state and local governments doesn't seem to see much change.

The only thing that seems to be an outlier is that the media seems to have lost some amount of trust (if we go by the those by those who answered the trust question with "none at all").

  • I looked at the numbers, but I don't see your point about the media reflected in them. Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 2:42
  • The negative half of the responses "Not very much" & "None at all" to "trust in mass media" appear to have peaked before the election and rebounded since then (2015: 36+24 = 60%, 2016: 41+27=68%, 2017: 29+29+58%). Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 3:03
  • @Fizz I placed more weight on the extremes, the 29% for "none at all" is unprecedented all the way back to 1972.
    – Teleka
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 3:06
  • And frankly your conclusion about the executive branch is dubious if you use your standard. 32% have "none at all" in 2017. That's an all time high in that table. For 2016 that was 24% and a year before 28%; the latter number (a previous maximum) was attained before e.g. in 2008. Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 3:09
  • @Fizz I said Trump was less trusted (as you noted he hit very high "none"), so I don't see how that doesn't fit my standard? It also has nothing to do with the question, I only brought it up to contrast with the other questions about other government branches/institutions where the 2017 data doesn't really show anything.
    – Teleka
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 3:42

I can tell you that this is not a "Trump Era" specific. American's by and large see the government as necessary evil at best, and politicians rank with lawyers as the types of people that all Americans will mock. This isn't anything new... a 2013 poll found that Congress had a 9% approval rating among the American public... Only 6% said they were undecided... and then the list starts to get bad for congress.

The same poll found that in a popularity contest between Congress and other reviled things, Congress has a few problems. Like, more people hold a better view on Lice than Congress by huge margins (67% said lice... 19% say Congress). And the list of intolorable things Americans favor over Congress doesn't stop there. Notable members of this club include "Hemroids, France, Cockroaches, Traffic Jams, Used Car Sales Men, Sleep Deprivations, The IRS (by 4 points with 45% responding that the Income Tax assessed to them was fair), Lawyers (the universally loathed profession), Ghengis Khan, and the band Nickleback!

Additionally, the Congressional Approval rate has gone down to 6% about 2 months out from the 2016 elections, and added such loathed things as Zombies, witches, Dog Poo, Communism, NORTH KOREA, BP during the Gulf Oil Spill... Nixon at the Height of the Watergate Scandle, and King George during the Revolutionary War (ya know... the bad guy).

As a final fun figure, only 21% of Americans in 2016 believe the government had consent of the Governed. The last time the number was that low, the government was England.

Among hypothetical Candidates for the American presidency, the two front runners in the 2016 election lost in a theoretical race to both a "Who ever was picked by a Random Name Generator that specifically excluded current Front Runner Candidates" and "A collision with an Extinction Level Asteroid", presumably for the radical universal health care policy that it promised.

There is some benefit. Americans would rather keep up with Congress than Kardashians, and hold a higher favorable opinions of Congress than Lindsey Lohan.

So yes, Americans are more cynical now that Trump has been elected... but cynicism in the US has been on the rise long before Donald Trump was elected into office... who... by the way... still has a better approval rating than Congress...




  • I upvoted, but it's not clear from this alone that the public despises Congress because it is sees Congressmen/politicians as corrupt (e.g. liars, thieves), as opposed to just inefficient. What about politicians holding executive functions (governors etc.)? Your point about "only 21% of Americans in 2016 believe the government had consent of the Governed. he last time the number was that low, the government was England" seems to argue for a downward trend when it comes to politicians holding executive office. Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 2:21
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    This satirical answer is factually incorrect, because it conflates a gallup ratings poll with unrelated metrics and polls that attempt to measure frequency, practice, and popularity.
    – agc
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 16:00
  • @Fizz True, but among my friends from other countries, they do comment that American seeming distrust of the Government is not something they see in their home country. Normally I attribute that to the origin, in that, we essentially were fighting our abuses of the government. Many of the Founder Father's post war writings also expressed a grave concern for overthrowing one tyranny for another and greatly worked to make Government as inefficient as possible... First it has to fight itself before it can fight the people.
    – hszmv
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 14:54

Is the US public now more widely endorsing cynical views like "all politicians lie", "they all break the law" (and so forth) than before Trump was elected?

No. What has increased during this particular administration are

  1. Internet access and usages of devices and services which publish media relating to politics, globally;

  2. the sheer volume of material that is officially published daily which can be interpreted by various factions for their own benefit.

The marvel of dominance of the 24 hour news cycle during the current administration is that there is enough fodder in the propaganda for every possible faction to use for their own political or other interests. That is, remaining relevant 24 hours a day is impressive in and of itself, no matter what people think - the prince is in peoples minds occupying space that is not being used for critical thinking.

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    Any sources or reasoning for your "No"? I'm not saying that you're necessarily wrong, but it just seems like an opinion. And the rest of your answer seems to make it plausible that there is in fact an influence of propaganda due to more media presence, making your assumption all the more questionable.
    – Thern
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 9:06
  • @Thern Primarily experience. Historically, Union general William T. Sherman's Field Order No. 15 issued January 1865, rescinded by President Andrew Johnson 1865 "The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] ..the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves"; Eisenhower's farewell address; Iran-Contra (arms; cocaine); Powell's Iraq WMD statement to the U.N. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 22:40
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    @guest271314: Examples of politicians lying/following realpolitik/being practical rather than ethical doesn't really show that the public endorsed those actions, which is what the original question was about. If you can find examples of wide public support for those actions then you'd probably have a very thorough answer.
    – Giter
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 23:28
  • @Giter Where does the question present the premise that "the public endorsed those actions"? The question is "Is the US public now more widely endorsing cynical views like "all politicians lie", "they all break the law" (and so forth) than before Trump was elected?". In certain populations there has never been a significant historical period where the population understood that politicians had not lied to them. Thus, for generations there was never any sense among populations of politicians not lying. They do what they want, in spite of public support. Not sure what you are trying to convey? Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 23:38
  • @Giter The important topic within the subject matter of "public opinion" is interests. "widely" depends on the scope and scale of the individuals' ability to engage with varying interests within their constituency. Cynicism varies between vastly difference demographics - though more pointedly at the other interests. The interest who loses the controversy would for good reason be keenly aware of the political power of the winner in a business dispute. There might be exceptions; genuine public servants devoid of shackles to interests other than good will to humanity. Kindly list them. Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 0:08

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