There has been a lot of bad news in recent years for state and local government employees, particularly on continuing layoffs and voters approving reductions in pensions and union rights. Government employees could get the idea that people don’t, well, like them or trust them. But that is not the case, in fact, it is exactly the opposite, according to an analysis of polling data by The Washington Post.
In opinion polls, state and local governments fare well compared to other major institutions. A March 2011 Gallup poll asked respondents to say whether they thought various institutions have “too much power, about the right amount of power, or not enough power.”
Only 34 percent of respondents said state government has too much power, while 49 percent said it has the right amount of power and 15 percent said it did not have enough power. Local government fared even better: Only 22 percent of respondents wanted local government to have less power. Fifty-three percent said local government has the right amount of power, and 21 percent wanted it to have more power.
Those results for state and local government beat out other major institutions. For banks and corporations, for example, 67 percent of respondents said those groups have too much power. Likewise, 58 percent of respondents said the federal government has too much power. Local government even outpolled churches: 25 percent of respondents said organized religion has too much power.
More data: a December 2010 Gallup poll showed that two of the largest groups of local government employees, grade school teachers and police officers, are “among the most trusted professions in the country,” according to the Post. The poll asked respondents to “rate the honesty and ethical standards” of people in various fields.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents rated grade school teachers as “very high” in ethical standards, fourth on the list behind nurses, military officers and pharmacists. Police officers, at sixth on the list, polled a “very high” ethical rating from 57 percent of respondents. Both teachers and police officers rated higher in people’s perceptions of their ethics than other professions, including clergy, bankers, newspaper reporters and members of Congress.