How Trustworthy Is Uncle Sam?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Uncle Sam is no stranger to headlines. Between widespread surveillance revelations, tax targeting tactics, and a national healthcare website that was plagued with problems from day one, the U.S. government has been drawing attention for all the wrong reasons. As a result, Americans are increasingly losing trust in Washington these days.

Do you trust the federal government with your personal information? According to a new survey from Harris Interactive, only four in ten American adults (40 percent) trust the government to handle personal information confidentially and securely, while six in ten (60 percent) simply don’t trust Washington. General mistrust has risen by six percentage points from 2009 to 2013, but grew by an additional eight points over the past year.

A wide variety of entities are deemed more trustworthy than the federal government. The majority of Americans trust health providers (76 percent), major online retailers (70 percent), banks/brokerage companies (65 percent), and small retailers (64 percent.) In fact, social networking sites (26 percent) are the only entities to lag the federal government in trust. However, trust in the federal government is significantly influenced by party affiliation.

“Americans’ attitudes toward the government tend to fluctuate greatly along political lines, and this issue is no different; majorities of Republicans and Independents don’t trust either the federal government (71 percent Republicans, 66 percent Independents) or state and local governments (60 percent and 61 percent, respectively) to handle their personally identified information in a properly confidential and secure manner. On the other hand, majorities of Democrats do trust both the federal government (56 percent) and state/local governments (60 percent) to do so,” explains Harris Interactive.

Age is also a factor when it comes to trusting the government. Millennials are more likely than their elders to trust both the federal government and state/local governments to handle their personal info confidentially and securely. They are even more likely to trust social media sites.

When asked which represents the greatest threat to their privacy — cyber criminals, the federal government, or their fellow Americans — more than six in ten Americans specify cyber criminals. Although, three in ten Americans say the federal government is the greatest threat to their privacy, with Republicans and Independents twice as likely as Democrats to say so.

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