Americans Say 75 Percent of Politicians Are Corrupted, 70 Percent Use Political Power to Hurt Enemies

Americans don’t paint a pretty picture of their public servants in the new national Reason-Rupe poll. Americans tell Reason-Rupe that 75 percent of all politicians are “corrupted” by campaign donations and lobbyists.  And they say 70 percent of politicians use their political power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

No wonder just 17 percent approve of the job Congress is doing.  Or that President Obama’s approval rating is just 43 percent, with 51 percent disapproving.

And while the Supreme Court just struck down limits on campaign contributions to federal candidates, the new Reason-Rupe poll finds Americans are actually more concerned about how elected officials misuse their power and taxpayer money once they’re in office than they are worried about campaign contributions. 

Asked, which is a “more serious” problem — “special interest groups spending private money on campaigns to elect the politicians they favor” or “elected officials enacting policies and spending taxpayer money that benefit the special interests they favor” — 63 percent of Americans said officials enacting policies and spending taxpayer money for special interests was a more serious problem.

Similarly, Americans say they are “more bothered” by politicians abusing political power than they are by some of the personal issues most often associated with political downfalls.  Seventy percent of Americans say they would be “most bothered” by a politician who used his or her political power to bully someone, while 14 percent would be most bothered by a politician using drugs, and 11 percent would be most bothered by a politician who cheated on his/her spouse.

The Reason-Rupe national poll conducted live interviews with 1,003 Americans on mobile (503) and landline (500) phones from March 26-30, 2014.  The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percent.  Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey.

Paying NCAA Basketball Players

With the Final Four approaching, just 42 percent of Americans say college athletes should be paid. However, when they learn the NCAA makes over $700 million a year from the television broadcast rights to the NCAA basketball tournament, 50 percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe that college basketball players should receive a share of the television revenue. And 64 percent of Americans say college athletes should receive some of the revenue when their jerseys are sold or likenesses are used in video games or on merchandise.

Flight 370 Conspiracy Theories

With Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 still missing, there are no shortages of theories about what happened.  Reason-Rupe finds 35 percent of Americans think a mechanical problem caused the plane to crash, 22 percent believe the pilots crashed the plane intentionally, 12 percent feel it was destroyed by terrorists, 9 percent say the plane landed safely and is in hiding, 5 percent believe the disappearance is related to supernatural or alien activity, and 3 percent think it was shot down by a foreign government.

Trusting the IRS, NSA and Facebook

The NSA topped Facebook when Americans were asked who is most likely to violate their privacy.Thirty-six percent of Americans said the NSA was most likely to violate their trust, 26 percent said Facebook, 18 percent said the IRS and 12 percent said Google.

But when it comes to whom the public would trust the most with their personal information, 35 percent said the Internal Revenue Service, 18 percent said the NSA, 10 percent said Google and just 5 percent said they trust Facebook the most with their privacy.

Tax Returns and Government Waste

Americans may trust the IRS more than Facebook, but with the April 15 deadline for filing federal income tax returns approaching, they’re reminded of how much money they send to the government. Asked open-ended how much of every tax dollar is wasted, the median answer was half, 50 cents.

This time of year also reminds Americans of the overly complicated tax code. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they’d favor switching to a flat tax.  When asked open-ended what they’d set the flat tax to, Americans said 15 percent (median).

Affordable Care Act

Fifty-three percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, while 36 percent have a favorable view of the law in this Reason-Rupe poll.

Forty-three percent of Americans say they will blame the federal health care law if their health care premiums increase or their health care plan changes in the next year. Twenty-six percent say they’ll blame health insurance companies, 17 percent would blame the economy and 5 percent would blame their employers.

Minimum Wage

Reason-Rupe finds 67 percent of Americans favor increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. 

Fifty-one percent would still support raising the minimum wage, even if they had to pay higher prices as a result. However, just 39 percent of Americans would still favor raising the minimum wage if it caused companies to lay off or hire fewer workers.

When it comes to paying for a higher minimum wage, 38 percent say companies would raise their prices, 32 percent say companies would lay off workers, 18 percent say they’d reduce executive salaries, and 6 percent say firms would accept smaller profits.

Forty percent of Americans say raising the minimum wage would have no impact on the number of jobs available, 38 percent say it would decrease the number of jobs, and 20 percent believe it would increase the number of jobs.

2014 Elections

If the 2014 elections were held today, 40 percent of Americans said they’d vote for the Democrat in the congressional district and 36 percent would vote for the Republican. When it comes to controlling Congress, 29 percent of Americans would like Democrats to take control, 24 would like Republicans to control Congress and 43 percent wish neither major party would be in control of Congress.

Republican Party Presidential Primary

Mike Huckabee          15%

Paul Ryan                  12%

Rand Paul                  11%

Jeb Bush                   11%

Chris Christie             10%

Ted Cruz                   6%

Marco Rubio              6%

Democratic Party 2016 Presidential Primary

Hillary Clinton           64%

Joe Biden                 11%

Elizabeth Warren       6%

Energy Subsidies and Keystone Pipeline

Americans favor building the Keystone Pipeline by a 61-32 margin, Reason-Rupe finds.  Fifty-eight percent of Americans support giving subsidies to wind, solar and hydrogen energy companies. Just 31 percent of Americans favor giving subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies.

Police Conduct

Reason-Rupe finds 78 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the police. However, with protests over police shootings in places like Albuquerque, 50 percent of Americans say police officers are not generally held accountable for misconduct, while 46 percent say police are held accountable. Sixty-six percent of blacks and 64 percent of Hispanics say the police are not held accountable for misconduct.

Nearly nine in 10 Americans, 88 percent, believe citizens should be allowed to videotape uniformed police officers while they are making arrests or performing other parts of their jobs.

Full Poll

Poll results and additional Reason-Rupe poll resources are available here. This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

Contact

Emily Ekins, Director of Polling, Reason Foundation, (310) 574-2961

Kristen Kelley, Communications Specialist, Reason Foundation, (443) 722-5592

Reason-Rupe April 2014 National Telephone Poll

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • sarcasmic||

    Pollzilla smash!

  • UnCivilServant||

    Whatever happened to Poll-Free Thursdays?

  • Robert||

    I don't get it. All of you come here (esp. the comments) to read about what other people think, and yet when they give us the figures about what large numbers of people think, so many profess their lack of interest. You're more interested in what a few self-chosen (not chosen by you) people have to say than what random samples say.

  • sarcasmic||

    Um, no. When large numbers of polls come all at once, we lose interest. We might be interested in what a few polls have to say, but too many all at once is overwhelming.

  • Robert||

    As opposed to large numbers of articles (some of them recycling material, which of course they also do with the polls) that are not polls?

  • Free Society||

    But when it comes to whom the public would trust the most with their personal information, 35 percent said the Internal Revenue Service, 18 percent said the NSA, 10 percent said Google and just 5 percent said they trust Facebook the most with their privacy.

    So Facebook misusing your personal data to try and sell you stuff is worse than the IRS demanding your data at gunpoint so they can use it to violently seize your wealth and potentially kidnap you and put you in a cage. People trust thuggish bureaucrats more than nosy salesmen. It was bad enough that 4 in 10 people think Obama is just swell.

    I'm surrounded by sociopaths and idiots who are dangerously unaware that they're idiots and sociopaths.

  • albo||

    You're Facebook's product, not customer. Remember that.

  • Free Society||

    You are the government's livestock, not it's master and not it's child.

  • JW||

    I'm surrounded by sociopaths and idiots who are dangerously unaware that they're idiots and sociopaths.

    What are you talking about?

    The IRS is a gentle and benevolent organization who only wants the rich to pay their fair share. This simply happens by magic.

    Facebook is an evil kkkorporation who will forcibly take your data without your permission and sell it to 3rd parties who will rape your cattle and kill your family.

  • Otisjay||

    "...and sell it to 3rd parties who will rape your cattle..."

    ಠ_ಠ

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Americans tell Reason-Rupe that 75 percent of all politicians are “corrupted” by campaign donations and lobbyists. And they say 70 percent of politicians use their political power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

    Except for the ones I voted for.

  • Mokers||

    TOP. MEN. Will fix this problem.

  • wwhorton||

    That shows up so often in polling it's damn near a Law of Political Science. And you wonder how we wind up with Congress...

  • albo||

    The average person is dumb. If we governed our personal lives by opinion polls, we'd be dating Harry Styles and having Pizza Hut and Bud Lite for dinner every night before watching an episode of NCIS.

  • Jackand Ace||

    And yet Nick Gillespie trots one out in nearly every article he writes...usually selectively so that they reinforce the point he wants to make.

  • LiveFreeOrDiet||

    Flight 370 Conspiracy Theories

    (Loudly)
    Especially the one about an electrical fire! I mean, who could believe that shit? Think about all the places a fire could be. Why would it take a flight out of Malaysia? Un-be-liev-a-bibble!

    (Peeking around the corner for Francisco d'Anconia...)

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Democratic Party 2016 Presidential Primary
    Hillary Clinton 64%

    That's weird. People here keep telling me Hillary is hated, even by Democrats. (And that Rand Paul would beat her if he gets the nomination.)

  • albo||

    Thing is, Hillary has a sense competency about her, especially compared to the feckless newb currently inhabiting the office and his predecessor. I think people want an adult in charge again.

    I hate myself for writing that.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "...Hillary has a sense competency about her,..."

    OK, based on what, exactly?

  • albo||

    She at least sounds like she's got a pair, and that if a crisis happened she'd actually follow through on what she said. The world is still dangerous.

    And, domestic policy-wise, there's a percentage of adult children out there demanding a mommy to tell them how to live.

  • wwhorton||

    Weird? Not at all. Name two other potential Dem candidates.

  • Carnival||

    In a general election between Clinton and Paul, the smart money would have to be on Clinton.

    There's no way the nation could get over a lot of the stuff Paul has said, and just the word 'libertarian,' let along the connection to his father, would be enough to make him into a joke.

    I am confident that we're looking at President Clinton in 2017.

  • JFree||

    The problem with polls is that pollsters simply do not provide enough choice. For example, why does the Flight 370 question not include an option for blaming the disappearance on Bush - or Obama - or the passenger who dressed up as a scary sad kind of clown? Why does the privacy violation question not include an option for worrying about pollsters who violate privacy? As for the most worrying thing about politicians, why not include options like selling drugs, molesting children, molesting housepets, molesting dead housepets - the valid options on this question are truly endless.

  • Lord Humungus||

    needs more precious pollzzzz

  • JW||

    Americans tell Reason-Rupe that 75 percent of all politicians are “corrupted” by campaign donations and lobbyists. And they say 70 percent of politicians use their political power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

    But, we'll keep re-electing them 98% of the time.

  • Libertarian||

    Seventeen present approval rating and yet "we" reelect them, over and over and over. For the love of god, WHY? Harry Reid? WHY?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Politicians are not "corrupted by" anyone or anything.

    Politicians are corrupt and seek out positions which will allow them to aggrandize themselves accordingly.

  • JFree||

    We can only be grateful that they choose politics. Because they share the sociopathic traits of serial killers too.

    Which might make for a good campaign slogan.

    Re-elect me or I might have to kill you!

  • I can't trust my fans||

    Hey! reason!

    Whatever you're paying Emily Ekins, I need you to double it. On the double! She single-handedly prevents this InternetBlogSite from becoming a festival of data-free self-congratulation.

  • ||

    Hi, Emily.

  • DH||

    "data-free self-congratulation"

    A handy?

  • ULOST||

    Poll results are just another scary reminder of what a crap shoot a jury of one's peers can be.

  • wwhorton||

    Polling data confirms yet again that direct democracy is the worst form of government.

  • ||

    Seems to work for the Swiss.

  • ||

    Fifty-one percent would still support raising the minimum wage, even if they had to pay higher prices as a result.

    This reminds me of Chapter XXXIII - Sixth Century Political Economics - in Mark Twain's book A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. The Boss is trying to explain real wages to Dowley, but is unable to do so. It seems that there are many Dowleys today, too.

  • ||

    Fifty-one percent would still support raising the minimum wage, even if they had to pay higher prices as a result.

    I went to Safeway last night to buy some groceries. I usually go to Walmart.

    Holy shit I payed like 30% more then i pay at Walmart for the same crap i normally get.

    I don't know who shops at Safeway as when i went it was late and pretty empty. At Walmart there are a lot of Mexicans shopping there.

    To be honest I much prefer that relatively poor Mexicans get a 30% "raise" when they buy stuff then contributing to the 10% greater pay that Union workers at Safeway get.

  • Peter Middeldorp||

    nice information

  • Carnival||

    “special interest groups spending private money on campaigns to elect the politicians they favor” or “elected officials enacting policies and spending taxpayer money that benefit the special interests they favor”

    Does no one understand that these two facts are inexorably linked together? The special interest groups give campaign donations so that the politicos will then use taxpayer money to benefit the interests that they favor.

    I guarantee, the special interest that every politician favors is the one that gives them the most campaign money.

  • AlgerHiss||

    Polling an American on anything deeper than Opra’s latest musing on life only proves them to be shallow, silly-assed douchebags.

    Land of the free and home of the brave? What a freak'n laugh line that has become.

  • Robert||

    And yet you take seriously enough the things written here, mostly by Americans, to write back.

  • Maxwells||

    We all realize most polls are skewed to favor the position (or agenda) of those conducting the poll, it's done by the 'phrasing of question', 'diluting the response by multiple answers' and of course 'political affiliation'.

    Stacking-the-deck in one party's favor will likely give it an advantage and suggest a trend that doesn't actually exist, and no poll should be taken serious until the 'political affiliation is included with the results.

    So when a poll like this, that has a 10 point advantage to Democrat/Leans-Democrat respondents claim Obama has an Approval rating of 43% and 51% Disapprove, you know the actual numbers are something closer to 38% Approve and 56% Disapprove.

  • JFree||

    The actual numbers would be more like:
    33% approve
    41% disapprove
    37% are pretty sure Osama is dead
    7% prefer a question about aliens
    64% think the answer is 'five' but could you read the question again.

  • ||

    7% prefer a question about aliens

    And 63% of those would like an essay question where they can describe the terrible sexual probing they had to endure while abducted.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "The NSA topped Facebook when Americans were asked who is most likely to violate their privacy.Thirty-six percent of Americans said the NSA was most likely to violate their trust, 26 percent said Facebook, 18 percent said the IRS and 12 percent said Google."

    None of these groups isa likely to violate my trust. They never had it.

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