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Americans’ lack of trust in government is waning

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Americans continue to say they don't trust the federal government but are not as disenchanted as they were a few years ago, said a survey released Monday.

Overall, 39 percent of Americans surveyed last fall said they trust the federal government to do the right thing at least most of the time, up 18 percentage points from the all-time low in 1994, said the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.Not even this year's allegations of a presidential affair and cover-up did much to shake the improved view of government by a public that has grown accustomed to scandal, the survey showed. A February poll found that the trust figure had slipped to 34 percent, a 5 percentage point drop from the fall.

"There's a moderation of discontent with government which is pretty consistent and across the board," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center. "They may be distrustful of government, but there's not a lot of hate."

Despite the improvement in public opinion in recent years, "trust in government can only be described as low," the report said.

The center found concern among many with the honesty of public officials and the way the government does its job.

"Cynicism about political leaders and the political system is more crucial to distrust than concerns about the proper role of government, worries about its power and intrusiveness, misgivings about its priorities or resentment about taxes," the center found.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said Washington does only a fair or poor job of running its programs, while one-quarter said the government does an excellent or good job.

Despite the low ratings, 69 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of government work-ers, and the public's opinion of 14 of 17 federal agencies improved or held steady since the 1980s.

The only significant declines were for the IRS, FBI and Veterans Administration.

The report was based on interviews with nearly 4,000 Americans over the past six months. The first and main survey of 1,762 adults was conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 31. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The final survey was conducted Feb. 19-22 and had an error margin of 3.5 points.