Public Opinion Dashboard

As James Madison once said, "Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one."  Measuring public opinion helps to provide insight into the complex relationship between the people and the various levels of government and how that relationship has changed over time. 

Trust and Confidence

The Trust and Confidence dashboard provides valuable insight into the ways in which American trust in the Federal Government have changed at different rates than their state and local counterparts.  Historically, Americans have generally associated high levels of centralization with tyranny and bad government. In theory, at least, state and local government have been viewed as more trustworthy, since state and local governments are closer to the people, to whom they are accountable.

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Responsiveness and Effectiveness

A diverse and far-ranging body of research suggests that government responsiveness and government effectiveness are important drivers of American support for state and local government.  Along with the question of "who does it best" Americans are also concerned about which level of government is able to effectively address their needs and/or to adequately respond to their preferences.


Most people seem to agree that the Federal government has accumulated a great deal more power than it was originally granted, but there is broad disagreement over how much, how to measure it, and whether or not this is a bad thing. This dashboard examines public opinion on power from multiple angles and sources, also including the latest comparative research on how American public opinion differs from other countries, such as Canada and Mexico.

Civic Engagement

One of the essential components of a healthy relationship between state & local governments and the federal government is an active and educated citizenry. In other words, federal systems work best when city halls and statehouses are filled with active and engaged people dealing with problems close to home. The extent to which this is true is one important measure of the health of a federal system.

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Fiscal Federalism

If we can quantify peoples’ opinions about government spending, and tease apart how they feel about specific levels of that spending, we can begin to build not only a clearer picture of how federalism-minded they are, but also what areas of government spending matter most to people and at which level. Acting on the assumption that spending equals powers, another major use for research on fiscal federalism is to measure shifts in power. The logic is that the more you spend, and the more areas you spend in, the more power you have.

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