A broad evaluation of views about whether the government is really run for the benefit of all the people perhaps best exemplifies the changes in public perceptions over the past few decades; in 1987, the public mood was favorable — 57% believed that the government benefited the public interest, while just 39% disagreed. Over the next seven years, public views deteriorated dramatically, and a 57% majority said the government did not act in the public interest. Opinions improved during the late 1990s, and in 2002 — less than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — public views of government were nearly as favorable as they had been back in 1987. The last five years have seen another severe downturn in public views. Currently a 52% majority says government is not run for the benefit of all the people, while 45% say it is. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.