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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Americans Hate Federal Government, Love Federal Agencies and Employees

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In the study, NASA had a 73 percent approval rating. In the study, NASA had a 73 percent approval rating. NASA

In the latest in what has become a seemingly endless litany of reports about plummeting trust in government, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports today that its latest study, conducted just before the shutdown ended, shows that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time. That's a seven-point drop since January. 

Almost a third of people say they are downright angry at their government, and 55 percent characterize themselves as frustrated. (One has to admire the Zen-like restraint of people who didn't put themselves in either of these categories over the past couple of weeks.)

Despite the overall lack of confidence in Washington, the shutdown may have taught Americans to appreciate the individual federal agencies they had to learn to live without. Pew asked people their opinions of 13 agencies, and 12 of them came away with positive ratings. (Sorry IRS, you're always the exception.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earned a whopping 75 percent approval, and NASA and the Defense Department weren't far behind, at 73 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Lightning-rod agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration still came away with high marks from more than 60 percent of respondents.

Likewise, the shutdown may have deepened Americans' appreciation of (or at least sympathy for) federal employees. More than 60 percent of people reported they had a favorable opinion of federal workers, while only 29 percent had unfavorable views. For civil servants, that may take some of the sting out of being furloughed and told they shouldn't get back pay for sitting at home and watching Netflix

Americans, Pew researchers concluded, consistently hold lawmakers themselves, rather than the institutions of government or even the political system generally, responsible for the country's woes. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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