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Americans Don’t Trust Government to Do What Is Right, Poll Finds

Negative views make it hard to recruit the ablest young people, analysts say.

Only one in five Americans say they trust the government to do what is right most of the time, according to a new poll.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed say societal change is best achieved through volunteering and working with charity organizations, rather than working in government, according to the poll by USA Today and the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Young people under the age of 30 were significantly less likely than their parents to rate political participation as something they value, the poll found.

Increasingly negative views toward government make it more difficult to recruit the ablest young people, USA Today warned, citing analysts. “As a result, government and politics are likely to work even less well -- presumably prompting perceptions to fall further,” the paper said.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed view the federal government as an advocate for themselves and their families, while 38 percent view it as a an adversary, the poll found. These views fell largely along partisan lines, with those who identify themselves as Democrats more likely than Republicans or Independents to see the government as an advocate.

Nearly 60 percent surveyed favored requiring one year of service from every American between the ages of 18 and 25 through the military, the Peace Corps or a community service organization such as Habitat for Humanity. Young people under the age of 30 were the only group to oppose this idea by a narrow margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. More than two-thirds of respondents over 50 favored the idea.

Fourteen percent of respondents said they had seriously considered running for public office. If the poll is representative, that would mean some 40 million people have, USA Today said, citing analysts.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres and Democratic pollster Mark Mellman conducted the survey in late June, reaching out to 1,071 respondents by landline and cellphone. The margin of error is +/- 5 percentage points, the paper said.

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