Americans Trust Local Governments More than Congress… and Why Local Government Matters

Americans view local elected officials far more favorably than members of Congress.

Perhaps you’re not surprised; but the degree of difference is quite Interesting.

Let’s dig into the research.

The Building Blocks of Trust

Pew Research Center sought answers about the performance of eight major groups of leaders in positions of responsibility including members of Congress, local elected officials, K-12 public school principals, journalists, military leaders, police officers, leaders of technology companies and religious leaders.

Read the Pew Research Center research in entirety:

Why Americans Don’t Fully Trust Many Who Hold Positions of Power and Responsibility

The Center concluded that people’s confidence in public leaders are driven largely by assessing those leaders against these building blocks of trust:

  • Competence, honesty, and benevolence
  • Empathy, openness, integrity, and accountability

Americans trust local government officials more than members of Congress

According to the Pew Research Center study, “Compared with members of Congress, Americans view the actions of local elected officials much more favorably.”

  1. Two-thirds of US adults believe local elected officials care about the people they represent versus just half for members of Congress.
  2. 64% of the U.S. public says local elected officials provide fair and accurate information to them while 46% say members of Congress do.

So clearly, Americans trust local government officials much more than members of Congress.  But why?

Why Americans trust local government officials more than members of Congress

Perhaps it’s because local governments are responsible for a community’s essential public services. 

(Although this is an obvious answer, it’s an important one.)

Perhaps it’s because even more so than federal and state governments, local governments are on the front lines helping their citizens address the most critical challenges of the moment.

They’re battling the pandemic, addressing housing shortages, improving traffic flow and parking, and ensuring better access to critical services.

(Okay, fine.  This is also an obvious answer– but it, too, is important!)

Or perhaps it’s because local governments contribute far more to local economies than state and federal government agencies. 

Did you know THAT?!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (or the OMB for federal), local governments employ more than 12.4 million FTEs (full-time equivalents), compared to 4.5 million by state governments and 4.3 million across all branches of the federal government (including postal and military employment). 

In other words, local government employment is 40% GREATER than state and federal employment COMBINED!

So, what are we saying?

Local governments matter.  A lot.  And Americans trust local governments much more than they trust Congress, data confirms.

Thus, as a supplier of critical products and services to local governments, what you do matters.  A lot. 

Your business could help build a smart city or detect community vulnerabilities.  Your solutions could be essential to overcoming COVID-19, rebuilding a local economy, or addressing insufficient construction of new housing units.  Your organization could support local governments as a resource for employment, contributing to the local economy.

So keep doing what you’re doing, local government officials.  Americans trust you to do a very important job.

And keep doing what you’re doing, local government suppliers.  You’re not shabby, yourselves.

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