In the midst of heated Congressional debates this month, recent polls show that Americans have faith in local government more than in states or federal government. According to a recent poll conducted by the National League of Cities (NLC), 37 percent of the respondents identified local legislators as the level of government which they trust the most to address issues that matter in their lives. In contrast, only 22 percent selected state government and a mere 12 percent expressed confidence in the federal level.
Another survey released this month by the Pew Research Center reached the same conclusion about the nation’s sentiment toward various levels of government. According to the poll, 63 percent of participants have a favorable view of local government – six percentage points above state government and 35 above the federal government. Local government has consistently ranked as a top performer since Pew began this poll in 1997. In fact, Pew recorded only two instances in which the local level fell short of first place. Both occurred at major spikes in the federal government-approval rating in 2001 and 2003.
The level of trust in local government does not depend on whether the respondent is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Republicans trust local government the most, followed closely by Independents and Democrats, as surveyed by NLC. The Pew survey also showed that local government ratings were the least partisan. While a respondent’s political affiliation was an important factor when evaluating the federal government, party lines were irrelevant for local jurisdictions.
What does this mean in this day and age of political divisiveness?
While party politics may interfere in Congress, there is no room for partisanship in local government. County officials must cooperate to implement policies which directly affect their residents. They are the “boots on the ground” government and the familiar faces working to satisfy local needs every day. These polls reiterate the importance of county governments to the American public and reaffirm Americans’ faith in local leaders.