Ten years ago, roughly two-thirds of Americans offered favorable assessments of all three levels of government: federal, state and local.

But the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted April 4-15, finds that while the public’s favorable rating of local government mostly held steady at 61% (compared to 67% in 2002), the percentage of those giving good marks to the federal government plummeted from 64% ten years ago to 33%.

Ratings of state governments remain in positive territory, with 52% offering a favorable and 42% an unfavorable opinion of their state government. Although favorability ratings for state governments declined between 2008 and 2009 as the financial crisis hit, they have remained steady over the past four years. Consequently, the gap between ratings of state governments and the federal government has grown.

Just over half (51%) of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the federal government, compared with 27% of independents and just 20% of Republicans. This contrasts with partisan views of the federal government when George W. Bush was president. As recently as 2008, Republicans held a more favorable opinion of the federal government in Washington (53%) than did Democrats (29%).

Since Barack Obama’s first year in office, public assessments of the federal government have dropped nine-points, with most of the change among Democrats and independents.
While Republicans offer an overwhelmingly negative assessment of the federal government in Washington, they take a far more positive view of state governments than do either Democrats or independents. Read More

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