In 1958, the American National Election Studies first started asking the question, “How much of the time do you trust the government in Washington?” The answer then, which seems inconceivable in today’s environment, was 73 percent of the time. I call this the Do The Right Thing Index.
The start and escalation of the war in Vietnam and the Watergate Scandal contributed to a significant erosion of the public’s trust in government. By the end of the 1970s, the American people believed the government would do the right thing a mere 25 percent of the time, a new low. Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Reagan’s ability to work together to solve the nation’s problems reversed this downward trend, with the Do the Right Thing Index hovering at around 45 percent in the 1980s.
President Clinton’s bad behavior and acrimonious relationship with the Republican-led House of Representatives, combined with the 1995 government shutdown brought the Do The Right Thing Index to a new low of 17 percent.
Just prior to the latest shutdown debacle, when the question was last asked of voters, the Do the Right Thing Index was at 26 percent.
Elected officials, regardless of their party affiliation, have a shared interest in returning the Do The Right Thing Index to pre-Watergate numbers. The functioning of our society requires a government that has the full faith and confidence of the American people to Do The Right Thing.
This issue of the Intersection looks at the recent government shutdown and what is at stake for Republicans, Democrats and the nation as a whole.
President, VOX Global