Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Record Low Opinion of Government Found

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Record Low Opinion of Government Found

Article excerpt

THREE OF FOUR Americans distrust government, the most in polling history, according to a joint survey by Democratic and Republican pollsters. The results suggest an opening for a strong third-party presidential candidate, they said.

"It's just not pretty," said Stanley Greenberg, who does political polling for President Bill Clinton. "This is a period of continuing and certainly deepening cynicism."

"It's a critique of both parties and the system as a whole," said Republican pollster Fred Steeper. "This kind of attitude, this kind of discontent is a major opening for a third party."

The bipartisan poll, issued Monday by the Americans Talk Issues Foundation and conducted with help from both Greenberg's and Steeper's organizations, said 76 percent of the people questioned responded that they rarely or never trust "government to do what is right."

That surpasses polls dating back to the late 1950s that showed dramatic discontent in times of political turmoil - 61 percent distrustful in 1974 after Watergate, 69 percent in 1980 after the Iran hostage situation and 62 percent in 1990 following the Iran-Contra affair.

"The frustration continues," said Alan F. Kay, president of the foundation. "Washington continues to be having a nervous breakdown."

The level of distrust has increased during Clinton's tenure - 71 percent in 1992, 72 percent in 1993 and 1994, and now 76 percent, according to foundation surveys.

The pollsters blamed Republicans as much as Democrats for government's poor showing, noting that trust continued to plummet after the GOP took control of Congress in 1995.

"The political cynicism has not been dispelled by the winds of change. If anything it's been worsened," Greenberg said.

The pollsters mentioned 1992 independent candidate Ross Perot and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell as two well-known potential independent contenders for the 1996 presidential race. …

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