Say you live in Oxford. You’re firmly rooted in all things Alabama, particularly politics. You’re conservative, you vote Republican, you support GOP positions on abortion, immigration and the Second Amendment, you’re generally a fan of your City Council, you want Gov. Kay Ivey to win in November and you cheered Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. You wish President Trump would delete his Twitter account, but you’d vote for him again nonetheless.
With that, we have two questions:
This isn’t about Oxford, by the way. We could have used Anniston or Jacksonville or anywhere else in our hypothetical scenario. It’s about the results of two new Gallup polls that show the complexities of Americans’ relationships with their elected officials. How those results fit in with the realities of governments in Alabama is the real test.
Here’s the part that’s not surprising: 72 percent of U.S. adults say they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in their local government, according to Gallup researchers. That’s nine percentage points higher than those who have similar amounts of trust in state government.
And here’s the part that is surprising: 55 percent of Americans say have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in politicians, Gallup says. Want your head to spin? That’s a 10-year high that’s seven percentage points higher than last year. Keep in mind, Gallup didn’t only question Republicans who are largely happy with Trump’s America and the GOP-controlled Congress. Given the national political rancor of the last two years and the number of state legislatures lathered in turmoil, it’s unfathomable that national confidence in politicians is at a 10-year high. Gallup might want to recalibrate its computers.
Here’s how Gallup explains it, though we’re wholly unconvinced:
“Trust and confidence in American politicians have grown substantially in each of the last two years while remaining fairly stable among Democrats. Republicans have been generally less likely than Democrats to trust politicians since Democrat Barack Obama succeeded Republican George W. Bush as president in 2009 at a time when the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Republicans have continued in most years to show less trust even after Republicans gained control of the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016.”
Local governments — say, Oxford’s, our aforementioned example — are the true test. Mayors and councilors live among us, and they’re largely accountable. We know what they do, how they go about their business. We might even have their numbers stored in our phones. That Americans’ trust in local leaders is significantly higher than their trust in state governments is a damning indication of America’s worst examples of state capitals and the people we send there.