Jordan LaPier
Director of Public Relations

New Partnership for Public Service report finds despite low levels of trust in the federal government, the American public overwhelmingly supports a nonpartisan, merit-based civil service

June 10, 2024

Report reveals new data on how the public views the federal government and civil service and outlines constructive reforms to improve government performance and accountability.

WASHINGTON – The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service today released The State of Public Trust in Government 2024, which found declining trust in the federal government but a strong consensus that we need a nonpartisan, merit-based civil service.

According to a nationally representative survey the Partnership fielded in the spring, only 23% of Americans trust the federal government, down from 35% in 2022. Furthermore, only 15% believe the government is transparent, down from 21%, and 66% believe the federal government is incompetent, up 10 percentage points.

“The decline in the public’s trust of the federal government—our most important democratic institution—is alarming,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “This downward trend has serious consequences for the country and for the health of our democracy.”

While the new data shows a low level of public trust, it also found that Americans overwhelmingly view an effective federal government and a professional, nonpartisan civil service as crucial for our democracy. According to the data, 90% of Americans value a federal government that “functions effectively” as an important part of a vibrant democracy, and 91% believe that having a competent civil service is essential to democracy.

Critically, the new survey found most Americans do not believe that further politicizing the civil service is the answer to a more effective government. Ninety-five percent of Americans across the political spectrum believe civil servants should be hired based on merit, not partisan loyalty, and serve the people more than any individual president.

Overall, 87% of the public wants a nonpolitical civil service, with both Republicans and Democrats surveyed agreeing at almost the same rate. In fact, support for a merit-based civil service grew across most demographics from 2022 to 2024.

In addition, nearly three-quarters of respondents disagree with the idea that presidents should be able to fire “any civil servant that they choose for any reason,” and nearly 90% believe that the federal government is less effective when decisions are driven by politics.

“Our new data shows that while there is low trust in government, Americans of all political stripes overwhelmingly support and value a professional, nonpartisan and competent civil service,” Stier said. “However, the data also demonstrates that they don’t believe they have that type of government today.”

Stier continued, “While some have sought to exploit this dissatisfaction by calling for the firing of civil servants and the weakening of civil service protections, the better course of action—one far more in line with public opinion—would be to build a well-functioning government that more effectively serves all.”

In the new report, the Partnership outlines several key reforms that would make our government more effective and responsive, including increasing accountability for poor performers; strengthening federal leadership; ensuring our government recruits top talent; improving the customer experience for people who interact with federal agencies; and better communicating the impact a merit-based civil service has on the public.

The findings of The State of Public Trust in Government 2024 report will be discussed at the Partnership’s second annual trust summit on June 11. The summit will explore the role of civil servants in democracy and will feature speakers from the private and public sectors, including Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.); Daniella Ballou-Aares, CEO and co-founder of Leadership Now Project; Ginny Badanes, senior director of the Democracy Forward Initiative at Microsoft; and best-selling author Michael Lewis.

Moderators for the event included James Hohmann, editorial writer and columnist at The Washington Post; Karen Tumulty, associate editor and columnist at The Washington Post; Rhett Buttle, founder of Public Private Strategies; and Robert Shea, co-founder of GovNavigators. Media can RSVP to the summit by emailing Jordan LaPier at

The survey findings are based on a poll the Partnership for Public Service and Impact Research administered in the spring of 2024 to a nationally representative sample of 800 adults. These findings are the third in a series of national surveys conducted by the Partnership on public trust in government.

Past survey findings can be found in the Trust in Government dashboard.

Learn more about the Partnership’s Rebuilding Trust in Government initiative at

During the past 22 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to building a better government and a stronger democracy. We work across administrations to help transform the way government works by providing agencies with the data insights they need to succeed, developing effective leaders, inspiring the next generation to public service, facilitating smooth presidential transitions and recognizing exceptional federal employees. Visit, follow us @PublicService and subscribe today to get the latest federal news and information on upcoming Partnership programs and events, and more.