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

Flight 370 conspiracy theories; college basketball players should share NCAA revenue; distrust of NSA and Facebook; concerns about police misconduct


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.


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