Cowardice and Corruption by Politicians Define the “Swamp,” Says New Poll

03 Oct, 2019

October 8, 2019

Contact: Alaina Monismith
Communications and Marketing Manager
Public Affairs Council

Cowardice and Corruption by Politicians Define the “Swamp,” Says New Poll

Republicans and Democrats agree on most serious problems with Washington politics 

(Washington, D.C.) – A new Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll examines what outrages people most about Washington politics, whether President Trump’s critical tweets change opinions, and how White House policies have affected American businesses.

The survey of 2,200 adults also explores the declining trust in the news media, whether support for regulation is increasing, and America’s influence abroad.

Americans from both major parties are most concerned about Washington politicians putting aside their principles, profiting in office from their influence, and being too partisan.

  • Of the 10 factors rated for contributing to the Washington, D.C., “swamp,” the top four are specific to politicians:  politicians too concerned about getting re-elected (72%), politicians using their influence to make money for themselves or their families (69%), intense partisanship (68%) and politicians spending too much time raising money for their campaigns (62%).
  • Republicans and Democrats polled found common ground in their frustrations. Seventy-two percent of Republicans and 75% of Democrats blame politicians who put getting re-elected ahead of acting on their principles. Corruption concerns both groups as well, specifically when it comes to using power and influence to make money while in government. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 67% of Republicans said this is a major problem.
  • The two factors on the list considered least problematic were the use of PACs by companies, nonprofits and unions to support candidates (39% concerned); and the fact that not enough good people want to go into politics (48% concerned).

“Most Americans are cynical about Washington — and for good reason,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “We who work here need to understand those feelings and do what we can to restore public trust. In the meantime, it doesn’t help that many politicians are viewed as self-serving, overly partisan or even corrupt.”

President Trump’s tweets are not as influential as journalists and the White House often assume.

  • Only 15% of the public read President Trump’s tweets very often, either via Twitter or the news media. This was the same percentage reported in last year’s poll. Sixty-three percent say they rarely or never pay attention to his tweets, up from 60% in 2018.
  • As in the 2018 findings, when the president tweets criticisms of specific companies, the vast majority of Americans (80%) don’t change their opinions. Only 11% say they have a less favorable opinion of a criticized company.
  • Trump has gained some ground this year in connecting to his base via Twitter. Twenty-nine percent of those who strongly approve of his job performance read his tweets very often, compared to 24% in 2018; and one-third of this group say they have a less favorable opinion of a company that is criticized by Trump, up from 25% in 2018. 

The news media is rapidly losing the public’s trust as a source of political news.

  • Only 39% consider the news media trustworthy for news and information about politics, down from 46% in 2018.
  • Republicans and Democrats differ widely in their attitudes about the media. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats still trust the news media at least somewhat; that figure drops dramatically for Republicans (23%), and Independents don’t have much trust either (33%).
  • Friends and family are still the most trusted source of political news at 67%, down slightly from 71% in 2018.
  • The least-trusted sources are social media (27%), candidate political campaigns (22%) and super PACs (12%). Social media trust dropped 4 percentage points since 2018. Surprisingly, only one-third of millennials and Gen Z Americans, represented in the 18- to 29-year-old subset, trust social media for political news and information.

Many believe America’s economic influence is on the decline and that White House efforts to boost U.S. firms have backfired.

  • Thirty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. government still has a great deal of economic influence on a global scale, but 35% believe that influence is decreasing and only 27% say it is increasing.
  • In foreign policy, 31% say the U.S. has a great deal of influence. Thirty-four percent believe it is decreasing and just 26% say it is increasing.
  • Twenty-eight percent say the government has a great deal of influence promoting values such as freedom and democracy abroad, but far more people believe that influence is on the decline (36%) rather than rising (22%).
  • Nearly half (46%) of Americans say the Trump Administration’s actions domestically and abroad have had a negative impact on U.S. companies, compared to 31% who say those actions have been positive. There are stark differences of opinion depending on party affiliation. While 66% of Republicans say the president’s impact has been positive for business, only 8% of Democrats and 23% of Independents agree.

Other notable findings:

  • Seven out of 10 Americans are supportive of self-funded campaigns or political dollars raised from individual citizens. The next most acceptable form of campaign funding is political action committees, which are favored by 51% and opposed by only 22%.
  • More Americans continue to believe that government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest than believe it does more harm than good (+5 percentage points for regulation).
  • Overall favorability of major companies rose slightly from 46% in 2018 to 48% in 2019. Small business ratings continue to be high with 85% favorability.

Visit our website to view the full survey results here:

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies, nonprofits and universities with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at