- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

Americans are replacing their suspicion of the federal government with growing trust, as they watch the nation's leaders confront terrorist attacks and the anthrax threat, a new survey has found.
According to a Brookings Institution poll released yesterday, 80 percent of adults now say they trust the federal government, up from 63 percent in July. In addition, 79 percent have a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of President Bush's Cabinet members. That's up from 60 percent in July.
The survey also showed that, during the same period, the percentage of Americans giving Mr. Bush favorable ratings climbed from 57 percent to 83 percent and that support for Vice President Richard B. Cheney. Support for Congress also rose sharply during the period, from 58 percent to 71 percent.
Paul Light of the Brookings Institution, who analyzed the survey data, identifies "confidence in President Bush" and in his response to Sept. 11 as the "most important factor associated with greater overall trust in the government."
According to the poll, other key factors in the public's change of attitude include "confidence in the elected leaders of Congress," a decrease in the number of Americans who favor cutting back federal programs to reduce the power of government, and "confidence in the president's appointees," said Mr. Light.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, reiterated that last factor, saying, "There's adult supervision. You have people in the Cabinet who have had experience in government and who have shown good results, and people have faith in them."
But Mr. Light said no one at the top should become overconfident. "Americans really want the government to strengthen homeland security and win the war on terrorism. Part of the rise in support [for government] is based on expectations" that these goals will be accomplished.
Data was compiled from a nationwide telephone poll of 1,033 adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6. Calls were made before the House of Representatives decided to shut down this week because of concerns over anthrax exposure.
Mr. Light said he does not believe the temporary shutdown will significantly affect public opinion toward Congress. "But if Congress doesn't get on with its job and pass legislation, such as the airport security bill, you can expect favorability to drop dramatically," he said yesterday.
The survey findings are especially notable when compared with data from the early and mid-1990s, when poll after poll showed Americans distrustful of government.
Karlyn Bowman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, cited a new Gallup poll conducted on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, which asked people how often they can trust government to "do the right thing." In that survey, 60 percent said they can trust government to do the right thing all or nearly all of the time.
By contrast, when Gallup asked that same question in January 1994, only 20 percent said they could trust government to do that.

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