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Why Texans Trust Their State Government and Californians Don't

Why Texans Trust Their State Government and Californians Don't

State governments enjoy widely varying levels of trust, that’s the finding of a new Gallup poll summarized by Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak on April 7

Illinois rests at the bottom of the trust heap with a trust deficit of 42 percent. North Dakota is tops with 56 percent more of its residents trusting state government than distrusting. Texas is 6th with a trust surplus of 45 percent and sits alone among the 10 most populous states in the top 10 for trust. The big states joining Illinois with trust issues are Pennsylvania (4th-least trusted), California (6th-least trusted), and North Carolina (9th-least trusted).

But why does trust vary so much? Is trust mainly driven by the number of governor who went to prison? Or, is trust linked to the number of people in a state, as Gallup found, “In general, trust is lower in more populous states than in less populous states…”

The real answer may be more complex than suggested by Gallup–and more driven by good public policy.

Gallup’s state government trust map (below) resists any obvious linkages to demographics or other measurable factors.

So, what factors might correlate to trust in state government? (Of course, correlation doesn’t prove causation.) The factors are listed in increasing level of correlation:

Weak to no correlation to trust in state government

  • The percentage of college graduates (more trust with a lower percentage of graduates): 0.0000
  • A state’s rate of military volunteering (more trust with more volunteering): 0.0007
  • The rate of incarceration in a state (more trust with less incarceration): 0.0079
  • The public school teacher to student ratio (more trust with a lower ratio, i.e., more teachers): 0.0245
  • The percentage of a state’s minority population (more trust with fewer minorities): 0.0333
  • Frequency of church attendance (more trust with more church attendance): 0.0388
  • The rate of the population on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) (more trust with less welfare): 0.0502

 

Slight correlation to trust in state government

  • The population of the state (more trust with a smaller population): 0.0609
  • Economic growth (more trust higher economic growth): 0.0778
  • The state’s percentage of foreign born residents (more trust with less foreign born): 0.0787
  • The percentage of taxes at the state and local level as a share of income factored with the public school teacher to student ratio (more trust with less taxes and more teachers): 0.0907
  • Political donation limits (more trust with greater or no limits): 0.0943

 

Moderate correlation to trust in state government

  • The rate of union membership (more trust with lower membership): 0.1288
  • The state’s Soft Tyranny Index (more trust with less Soft Tyranny): 0.1324
  • The percentage of taxes at the state and local level as a share of income (more trust with less taxes): 0.1536
  • Gun control laws (more trust with less gun control): 0.1606
  • Lawsuit climate (more trust with less frivolous lawsuits): 0.2017
  • Days legislature in session (more trust with a fewer days the legislature is in session): 0.2246
  • Commute time (more trust with shorter commutes): 0.2990

 

Strong correlation to trust in state government

  • Commute time factored with state and local taxes (more trust with shorter commutes and lower taxes): 0.3399
  • Commute time factored with state and local taxes and legislative days (more trust with shorter commutes, lower taxes and less time legislature is in session): 0.3564
  • Taxes factored with gun rights and lawsuit climate (more trust with lower taxes, stronger 2d Amendment rights, and less frivolous lawsuits): 0.3795
  • Commute time factored with taxes, gun rights and lawsuit climate (more trust with shorter commute, lower taxes, stronger 2d Amendment rights, and less frivolous lawsuits): 0.4108

Gallup opined that population, the state of the economy and public corruption cases drove trust. But the above correlations show that the economy or the population only show a slight correlation to public trust, at 7.8 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.

What does build trust? Liberty, thrift, roads, and a sound legal environment for a start–that and not seeing a bunch of elected officials go to prison.

The Hon. Chuck DeVore is the Vice President of Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @chuckdevore

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