Americans' trust in "the American people" to make judgments about political issues facing the country has declined each year since 2009 and, at 61%, is down nearly 20 percentage points from its recent peak in 2005. Still, that exceeds the 46% of Americans who trust the "men and women … who either hold or are running for public office," which is one point above the historical low from 2011.
The results are based on Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 5-8. The same poll found that Americans' trust in the federal government to handle domestic and international problems, their trust in the news media, and their trust in the three branches of the federal government, and in state and local governments are all at or near historical lows.
Americans' trust in political officeholders and candidates has also generally trended downward in recent years, apart from a spike in September 2008, during the fall presidential campaign. That year, Americans viewed the major-party candidates -- Barack Obama and John McCain -- more positively than any other recent pair of presidential candidates.
The public's declining trust in the American people to make judgments about political issues could be part of a more general process of declining trust in most governing institutions. It may also be an outgrowth of increasing polarization in the United States on key issues. Americans may trust "the people" less when they are more conscious that segments of the population hold views radically different from their own.