By Dublin Mayor Phil Best, GMA President
A new report from the Pew Research Center confirms what many instinctively know, that our confidence in government, elected officials and, unfortunately, each other, continues to decline. It also contains a glimmer
of hope — there’s a belief that things can get better.
First, the bad news. Seventy-five percent of American adults believe that trust in the federal government has been shrinking, while 64 percent believe trust in each other has declined. Sixty-four percent of Americans say that problems are harder to solve because of low trust in the federal government. Seventy percent also blame the low trust people have in each other for our inability to solve problems.
The report contains more disturbing news: 49 percent believe people are less reliable than they used to be; 69 percent believe the federal government withholds information from us; 61 percent believe the news media doesn’t report stories that are important; 57 percent don’t think other adults make informed decisions when they vote; and 58 percent don’t have confidence that we’re able to conduct civil conversations
with those that have different views.
Now, the good news. Eighty-four percent believe it’s possible to increase trust in government, while 86 percent believe it’s possible to improve our confidence in each other. How? It’s simple. Americans believe that “local communities can be laboratories for trust-building as a way to confront partisan tensions and overcome tribal divisions.”
That’s the good news, nothing more than the belief that we, as Americans, have the means to do better. And let’s not forget that one little part about, “trust being regained by efforts at the local level.”
There isn’t enough space in this column to hit on everything we can do to move the needle on trust. But I do think we need to understand one thing before we can make any headway, and that is that trust is something that people give to others or institutions because it has been earned. It is something that is given.
As we address the challenges in our communities, the question before us is what can we do to be trustworthy? It’s up to us to provide the evidence of our trustworthiness. And we can do that by being competent at what we do, being reliable by doing what we say we’ll do and being honest.
The report from the Pew Research Center outlines the problems with trust and the belief that it can begin to be repaired at the grassroots level in our communities. We can look at this either as a burden or an opportunity. I tend to look at it as an opportunity to shine, to show others how to get things done in a way that honors our democratic ideals while working towards the common good.
This article is part of GMA's Viewpoints catalog, a grouping of opinion pieces from the GMA magazine, speeches and other editorials. Click here to view the digital version of the latest edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.