Americans estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of each tax dollar. This matches their prior estimate in 2011, which was the highest Gallup had measured since 1979. Americans are less harsh about their state and local governments, viewing them as wasting 42 cents and 37 cents, respectively.
When Gallup first asked the question in 1979, Americans estimated that the federal government wasted 40 cents of every dollar, their state government wasted 31 cents, and their local government wasted 25 cents. Those are the lowest figures for state and local levels of government in any year since, while the lowest waste estimate for federal spending was a slightly lower 38 cents in a 1986 survey.
Gallup didn't ask these questions during the next decade, but when it next asked them in 2001, the "wasted cents" estimates were roughly in line with those in the 1980s. Since 2001, however, the proportion of the tax dollar Americans say the federal and state governments waste has increased, while the estimate for local governments has remained roughly the same.
Americans historically have always seen local governments as wasting the lowest proportion of each dollar, while seeing the federal government as wasting the most. This is consistent with Gallup research showing that Americans' trust in state and local governments is significantly higher than their trust in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.