- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

In God we trust and each other. A new Gallup poll finds that Americans trust one another more than the federal government, local officials and the news media when it comes to public affairs.
Who's the best custodian of democracy? Survey respondents were asked to evaluate how well fellow citizens, assorted politicians, officials and journalists fared when "making judgments under our democratic system about issues facing our country."
Friends, family and neighbors, it seems, win. The "American people" got the highest vote of confidence, cited by 78 percent of those polled.
The judicial branch of government headed by the Supreme Court followed at 75 percent. President Bush and the executive branch won over 72 percent, lawmakers in the House and Senate got 67 percent, other public officials 60 percent and the print and broadcast news media 54 percent.
"This study demonstrates that Americans have faith in each other," said Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Such affections start to fade when politics and the newsroom enter the picture, he said.
"There's an esteem for Everyman here that the people you walk by on Main Street are all good at heart," Mr. Felling said. "It's due, in part, to our instincts to give more credit to those who are similar to us."
Still, these opinions present a kind of cultural irony, he said.
"When scrutinized, this survey is a conundrum: The people trust politicians more than the media, but who informs them about the politicians but the dubious journalists themselves?" Mr. Felling asked.
Mr. Bush and the White House gained the most public confidence in the last year.
"The largest change since September 2001 is seen in attitudes toward the executive branch, which rose by nine percentage points," the survey noted.
Trust wavers along political lines, however.
The survey found that 93 percent of Republicans trusted either "a fair amount or a great deal" the executive branch of government. Sixty-nine percent of the independents and 53 percent of Democrats agreed.
Republicans also support the citizenry the most: 81 percent said they trusted the American public; 79 percent of independents and 75 percent of Democrats agreed.
The press got marginal nods of approval across the board. At 59 percent, the Democrats trusted journalists the most, followed by 52 percent of independents and 49 percent of Republicans.
"Democrats' high confidence in the news media is due to the Democrats' more favorable perceptions of the news media's fairness," the survey noted. Only 27 percent said the press was "too liberal."
A whopping 72 percent of Republicans, however, said the media was too liberal; only 20 percent said it was "about right" in its coverage.
Meanwhile, who do we trust on a global scale? A Harris poll conducted for the first anniversary of September 11 found that Americans have clear opinions about who's on our side and who isn't.
Out of 25 countries, the survey found Britain, Canada, Australia and Israel lead the list of our closest allies, followed by Italy, Mexico, Germany, France and Japan.
At the other end of the scale, the poll found Americans considered the most "unfriendly" countries to be China, followed by Pakistan, Colombia and Russia.

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