Corrupt Government, Rigged Elections and Strangers in a Strange Land

Do we live in a country with a corrupt government and rigged elections? Poll results from the University of Chicago show deep distrust of government.

Most FedSmith readers are current employees of the federal government or federal retirees. Most are unlikely to think of themselves are working in a corrupt government and a government that runs unfair elections.

It is a worldwide audience but not a surprise that the most activity on the website comes from the Washington, DC metropolitan area and cities with a large number of federal employees. So, while the audience is diverse and geographically spread out, most live in or around major metropolitan areas.

The results of a recent poll may surprise many readers as it reflects how Americans see government and how our government serves its citizens. The results are not encouraging. Many Americans now share a belief our country is deeply divided and a significant percentage believes the federal government functions as a “deep state” that ignores the results of elections and policy preferences of voters.

Corrupt Government and Rigged Elections?

It may discomforting for those who work in the federal government to see the results of a recent poll from the University of Chicago. What does it mean about our country today when 28 percent of voters, including 37 percent who have guns in their homes, agree that “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.”

While that may be the finding with the most direct safety concerns for people sitting and working in federal buildings across the country, it is not the only negative aspect of the poll. For example:

A majority of Americans agree the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me,” including 73 percent of voters who describe themselves as a “strong Republican,” 71 percent who called themselves “very conservative” and 68 percent of rural voters. 51 percent of voters who call themselves “very liberal” also agreed. Overall, two-thirds of Republican and Independent voters agree that the government is “corrupt and rigged” against them, while Democrats are evenly split.

Are Elections Fair and Counted Accurately? Is the “Other Party” Mostly Bullies and Liars?

56 percent of those in the survey reported they “generally trust elections to be conducted fairly and counted accurately,” but that view varies by political affiliation. 78 percent of Democrats generally trust elections to be fair and accurate. 51 percent of Independent voters and 33 percent of Republicans agree. Only 31 percent of those who voted for former President Trump generally trust elections.

73 percent of Republican voters in the poll agree that “Democrats are generally bullies who want to impose their political beliefs on those who disagree.” 74 percent of Democrats express that view of Republicans. A similar majority of each party thinks members of the other are “generally untruthful and are pushing disinformation.”

Strangers in a Strange Land

49 percent of those in the poll “more and more feel like a stranger in my own country.” 69 percent of strong Republicans and 65 percent who call themselves “very conservative” share this feeling. 38 percent of strong Democrats agreed.

With this finding, it is not surprising that a recent average of polls in Real Clear Politics found that 74.4 percent think our country is heading in the wrong direction, and 18.3 percent think we are going in the right direction.

Trust in Government from 1950’s (75%) to 2022 (23%)

Whether it is accurate or not, older Americans may recall living in a time when there was generally a belief that the American government was largely free of corruption and had the strong support of its citizens. Of course, the internet did not exist, television news consisted of three networks broadcasting to homes close enough to receive the signal with an antenna, and written news was spread by thousands of local newspapers often focusing on local events.

That belief in the federal government was reflected in polling that showed about 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. That is hard to envision today when the same poll shows trust in government to be down to about 23 percent.

Today the American population is much larger and much more diverse. The changes in society have been rapid, all-encompassing, and life-changing for all of us. There are more ways to disagree. There are many ways to express personal opinions, without a name attached to the opinion, and to engage in personal expression in ways that vary from modulated and friendly to profane, angry, and personally insulting.

The palpable anger and distrust in government may reflect a changing society that has not come to a consensus on how to deal with changes in technology, changes in communication, the introduction of new and controversial points of view with a more diverse population, and increased crowding with population growth from 157.8 million in 1950 to more than 330 million today. Increasing serious crime rates, economic disruption and fear arising from widespread new disease outbreaks, and the first “hot war” in Europe since the end of World War II in 1945 all contribute to concerns about our economic security and physical safety.

Government is a focal point for much of this anger and frustration bubbling up because the federal government impacts so many aspects of our lives. Chances are federal employees will find themselves at the forefront of these evolving changes and conflicts. As the recent University of Chicago poll shows, we are nowhere near having a society that is free from conflict and that a growing number of people see as becoming increasingly violent.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47