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Faith in Federal Employees Remains High Despite Washington’s Image

New GW Battleground Poll Data Also Shows Large Majority See Government as Good Place to Work

September 08, 2014
Jason Shevrin: 202-994-5631, js[email protected]
Nicole Carlotto: 202-994-6466, [email protected]
WASHINGTON—American confidence in federal employees remains at high post-shutdown levels, according to new data from the George Washington University Battleground Poll. Nearly three-fourths of survey respondents had “a lot” (22 percent) or “some” confidence (51 percent) in federal civilian workers. 
The new figures are in stark contrast to the poll’s data on presidential and congressional approval ratings. President Obama’s job disapproval rating is 51 percent, while Congress has a 79 percent disapproval rating. Only one-fourth (25 percent) of survey respondents voiced “little or no confidence” in federal workers in the data released today.
“Clearly, Americans don’t blame federal workers for the shortcomings of elected officials,” said William Adams, professor of public policy and public administration in GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. “This may not be an overwhelming affirmation of trust in federal workers but it’s a lot more positive than it was before the federal shutdown last year. Americans like federal workers far more than their political bosses.”
Confidence in federal workers declined in the wake of news reports of misconduct and mismanagement at various agencies in 2012 and 2013, according to previous GW Battleground Poll results. However, confidence rebounded after the government shutdown.
Despite the high overall mark for federal workers, there is a partisan divide. A disproportionate number of those skeptical of federal workers are Republicans. Only 13 percent have a lot of confidence in federal workers, while 36 percent have little or no confidence. Among Democrats, numbers are reversed, with only 13 percent having little or no confidence and 32 percent having a lot of confidence. In 2011 and 2012, independents were moving toward the GOP’s degree of skepticism, but now they are back in the middle between the partisans.
The new GW Battleground Poll data also reaffirms its previous findings that Americans see the federal government as a good place to work. About three-fourths of those polled (73 percent) say they would encourage a young person to consider a federal job. Only 20 percent would discourage a civil service career. 
The public’s view of federal careers is also split along party lines. Democrats would overwhelming encourage a federal career (88 percent pro to 9 percent con). Only 56 percent of Republicans would be supportive, while 32 percent would discourage that direction. Blacks are especially positive toward federal jobs (88 percent), compared to 70 percent among whites.
Interview Opportunities
William Adams, GW professor of public policy and public administration (contact Jason Shevrin at 202-994-5631)
More Information
For the full report and charts on American opinions of federal civilian workers, visit:
For complete results of the latest GW Battleground poll, visit:  
About the George Washington University Battleground Poll
The George Washington University Battleground Poll is a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) serve as the university’s home for the partnership. GW’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library houses the data archive of the survey results dating back more than two decades.
The poll, which is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from these top pollsters representing both sides of the aisle, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide Aug. 24 through Aug. 28, and included a protocol for reaching mobile phone users. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The George Washington University
In the heart of the nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.