Is Government Really That Unpopular? The Truth Is Complicated…

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By on August 23, 2016 in Current Events with 0 Comments
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There was an interesting story on Govexec.com on August 16, 2016 regarding a new Gallup poll that showed that the federal government is the least popular of any major industry in the US. The poll listed the restaurant and computer industries as the most popular, with 66% total positive views. The restaurant industry also had the lowest negatives at 7%, with the computer industry slightly higher at 13% negative.

The US government came in last on positive ratings – tied with the pharmaceutical industry at 28% positive. The three largest percentages of negative ratings were the government at 55%, pharmaceuticals at 51% and the healthcare industry at 54%.

Is That the Whole Story?

Those numbers are not a great showing for the US government, but do they really tell the whole story? Of course not.

Let’s start with the specious comparison of the United States government to the restaurant, computer or any other industry. Does Burger King withhold money from your paycheck? No. Does Apple? No.

No industry in this poll has the kind of power over the everyday lives of Americans that the government exercises. No industry has a responsibility to defend the US, the promote its economy, to pass and enforce laws, or anything else. For the most part, the comparison is meaningless and serves no useful purpose.

ccess to quality education, and ensuring basic income for senior citizens.

Pew also asked about specific agencies and found 84% had a favorable view of the Postal Service, the National Park Service had a 75% favorable rating, and the Centers for Disease Control and NASA came in at 71% and 70%, respectively. In fact, agencies representing the vast majority of the government came in at better than 50% approval.

Those numbers and the agencies they represent do not sound like an organization that should be compared to a restaurant or a computer manufacturer or service.

Pew also looked at views of elected officials and found they were not particularly popular. They were viewed as less honest and more selfish than typical americans or business leaders. Congress had a meager 27% favorable rating. The political parties do not fare much better, with the Democrats at 45% and the Republicans at 32%.

The Pew report has much more data and I highly recommend reading it if you want to know a lot more about how government and its many components are viewed. The data are fascinating and tell a complex story.

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal's blog, ChiefHRO.com, and has been reposted here with permission from the author. Visit ChiefHRO.com to read more of Jeff's articles regarding federal human resources and other current events along with his insights on reforming the HR system.

© 2020 Jeff Neal. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Jeff Neal.

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About the Author

Jeff Neal is author of the blog ChiefHRO.com and was previously the chief human capital officer at the Homeland Security Department and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency.

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