In Which State Do Residents Trust Government The Least?

Ed BurghardLow trust causes friction, whether it is caused by unethical behavior or by ethical but incompetent behavior (because even good intentions can never take the place of bad judgment).  Low trust is the greatest cost in life and in organizations, including families.

Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill

Trust in Government

The power of the American Dream Composite Index research is found in understanding the 5 sub-indexes and 35 dimensions that comprise the ADCI.

The American Dream Trust in Government dimension measures the extent of resident satisfaction with government’s fairness and trustworthiness.  Here are the 10 lowest scoring states:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Alabama
  3. Kentucky
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Idaho
  6. Oregon
  7. Montana
  8. Indiana
  9. Georgia
  10. Maine

Read the above as residents in these states have the lowest level of trust in government.

For perspective, trust in government is a low scoring dimension nationally.   I personally think this is a very disturbing, rather than healthy situation.  While it may be considered good in a democracy to have conditional trust of government programs, distrust can be crippling to progress.  The principles espoused in Stephen Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust” are instructional for economic development.  Stephen’s Firth Wave discussion is about societal trust.

In the book, there are three great quotes worth reprising –

Confucius  –  “Good government needs weapons, food and trust.  If the ruler cannot hold onto all three, he should give up weapons first and food next.  Trust should be guarded to the end, because without trust, we cannot stand.”

Alan Greenspan – “Falsification and fraud are highly destructive to free-market capitalism and, more broadly, to the underpinnings of our society … our market system depends critically on trust – trust in the word of our colleagues and trust in the word of those whom we do business.”

James Surowiecki – “The evolution of capitalism has been in the direction of more trust and transparency, nd less self-serving behavior; not coincidentally, this evolution has brought with it greater productivity and economic growth.  That evolution has not taken place because capitalists are good people.  Instead, it’s taken place because the benefits of trust – that is being trusting and of being trustworthy – are potentially immense and because a successful market system teaches people to recognize those benefits.”

I think the take-away message from these quotes is that trust is the cornerstone of collaboration and progress.  Some of the characteristic behaviors Covey defined as engendering trust are –

  • Talking straight
  • Demonstrating respect
  • Creating transparency
  • Correcting wrongs
  • Delivering results
  • Confronting reality
  • Being accountable
  • Listening
  • Keeping commitments

Are these characteristic behaviors that come to your mind when you think about the government?  Why not?  After all, we elect officials to government positions.  Shouldn’t we hold our standards high and elect only officials with a track record of behaving in a trustworthy manner?  What has happened that’s eroded the trust of residents in government, and what can be done to being restoring it?  If we are unable to find reasonable answers to those questions, should we expect to achieve our American Dream and the economic prosperity that accrues from it?

Does your community have a trust strategy?

How many communities actually have a strategy of always being trustworthy?  My guess is few if any.  If residents view fairness and trustworthiness as an integral part of their American Dream, why should’t state and community leaders make it a priority and strive to ensure businesses and government are both fair and trustworthy?  Covey provides practical insights into how to go about doing this with advise like “Trust is equal parts character and competence… You can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.”  States and communities that focus on building resident trust and fairness will have a distinct competitive advantage in attracting capital investment and top talent.  It is one way to create a virtuous circle for sustainable economic success.

What Do The Data Tell You?

The ADCI data reflect the sentiment of residents.  If you think about it, these are the people in the best position to assess how easy it is to achieve their American Dream, and as a consequence their perspective is worth paying attention to.  Resident sentiment is measured through a validated questionnaire.  To produce the Report, the data collected from residents in each state throughout calendar 2013 have been compiled to create a 12-month snap shot.  The intent of the Report is to help economic development professionals and elected officials better understand where the state might have opportunities to better enable residents to achieve their American Dream.  This can be done by comparing one state’s dimension scores with other states that might be seen as competitive for capital investment or attraction of top talent.  It is important to note the data inform HOW residents are feeling, but do not explain the sentiment drivers behind WHY they feel that way.  Answering the WHY question requires additional local market research.

How Were The Dimensions Determined?

In general, the Xavier University team did an exhaustive literature review along with both qualitative and quantitative market research to identify an initial list of dimensions that make up the American Dream.  Questions or statements were generated to measure each dimension.  Then two separate large-scale quantitative studies were used to statistically validate and refine the questionnaire.  Finally, three nationally representative samples were used to validate the ADCI, and factor analysis was used to verify that each dimension was sound.  The result of all this work was 35 dimensions that are grouped into five statistically sound and validated sub-indexes.

more complete description of the process is available on the Xavier University website.

What Is Your State’s Ranking?

In 2013, New Mexico is Ranked as the #1 State in the Nation for Enabling Residents to Achieve Their American Dream.

American Dream Duck Cover

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