Trust in government lower in the U.S. than in many other democracies
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Trust in government lower in the U.S. than in many other democracies

September 15, 2023

The United Nations has declared Sept. 15 the International Day of Democracy, in part due to threats to democratic principles around the world. 

It is a fitting time to mark this day given the threats to democracy in our own country, which are driven in part by breakdowns in the relationship between our government and the public that foster a greater distrust of our nation’s core institutions.  

Recent research shows that the U.S. ranks behind many other democracies when it comes to public trust in government, specifically—a sign that rebuilding faith in our own federal government is both possible and urgently necessary.  

Trust around the world 

In late 2022, research by the Partnership for Public Service showed that only 35% of the American public trusted the government compared with 46% who did not and 16% who were neutral. 

A comparison of these survey results with those from a 2021 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, which asked the same question on trust that we did in 2022, suggests the U.S. would rank 14th out of 21 countries measured.  

While these two surveys were conducted a year apart and the U.S. chose not to participate in the 2021 OECD survey, the results offer a unique worldwide context.  

At 35%, U.S. trust levels ranked higher than some democracies, such as Belgium (32%), France (28%) and Japan (24%), but lower than most, including Finland (62%), Ireland (51%), Korea (49%), Canada (45%) and Australia (38%), and roughly equal to one, the United Kingdom. According to the OECD survey, Norway had the highest level of trust in government at 64%.

A call to action

While the challenges facing each country on this list differ, the fact that many of them have higher levels of trust than the U.S. suggests that increasing public trust in our own government is possible, that skepticism of government is neither inevitable nor permanent, and that our government may be able to learn lessons from other nations to better connect with the public.  

Improving how people perceive the federal government will not be easy—it will take a combination of excellent delivery of services to the public, improved communication and effective reforms that make the government more responsive to public needs.  

The Partnership supports these efforts in multiple ways, such as offering tips for agencies on how to best communicate their work, highlighting the extraordinary work of public servants at our Samuel J. Heyman Service to American Medals® and helping federal leaders improve the public’s customer experience when interacting with government services.  

In the coming months, the Partnership will continue to examine public views of government and offer federal officials practical advice on how to better communicate their important work and more effectively serve the public.  

Join us for our “2023 Trust Summit: A Government of the People” on Sept. 27 to continue the conversation about rebuilding trust in our government and visit to learn more about the Partnership’s work on this critical issue.   

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