American Political Science Review

Research Article

Political Issues and Trust in Government: 1964–1970*

Arthur H. Millera1

a1 The University of Michigan


National survey data demonstrate that support of the federal government decreased substantially between 1964 and 1970. Policy preference, a lack of perceived difference between the parties, and policy dissatisfaction were hypothesized as correlates of trust and alternative explanations of this decrease. Analysis revealed that the increased distrust in government, or cynicism, was associated with reactions to the issues of racial integration and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. A curvilinear relationship was found between policy preference on these and other contemporary social issues and political cynicism. The minority favoring centrist policies was more likely to trust the government than the large proportion who preferred noncentrist policy alternatives. This complex relationship between trust and policy preference is explained by dissatisfaction with the policies of both political parties. The dissatisfied noncentrists formed highly polarized and distinct types: “cynics of the left,” who preferred policies providing social change, and “cynics of the right,” who favored policies of social control.


* Thanks are extended to Warren E. Miller for his encouragement and valuable advice and to C. Richard Hofstetter, John Kessel, John Stucker and Herbert Weisberg for comments on an earlier draft, as well as to Thad Brown and AI Raine of the Institute for Social Research and Gary Gartin of The Ohio State University for their assistance in the data analysis.