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InsiderOnline Blog: May 2014

Why Are Some State Governments Trusted More than Others?

In April, the Gallup organization released a survey of citizen trust in state governments. Some states are trusted much more than others. Why is that, we wondered?

Could it be that states earn citizens’ trust by sticking to doing the things that governments are supposed to be competent at doing—like putting thieves and murderers in jail, and building basic infrastructure—and otherwise letting free citizens pursue their interests? Could it be that states that tax more and regulate more in order to favor particular types of economic activities (e.g., green energy) are not as good at spending other people’s money as well as the people themselves—and thus earn more distrust by doing things at which they are not competent?

That’s a theory. Is it true?

We checked the trust results against the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom rankings from its 2013 Freedom in the 50 States index. We also checked the results against the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings from its 2014 Rich States, Poor States study. The ALEC-Laffer index looks at 15 variables including tax burdens, the progressivity of income taxes, the number of public employees, and whether a state has a right-to-work law on the books.

Our comparisons of the rankings are shown in the table below. It certainly looks like states earn more trust by imposing fewer tax and regulatory burdens on their citizens. The seven most-trusted states have an average ranking of 11.9 in the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook measurement and an average ranking of 15.3 in the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom index.  The corresponding average rankings for the seven least-trusted states are 38.9 and 39.6. (A ranking of 1, for example, means the state achieved a better score than each of the other 49 states; while a ranking of 50 means the state achieved a worse score than each of the other 49 states.) And as you can see from the right-most column, the policies that garner trust also seem to lead to a better employment picture, too.

 

 

Gallup: % Great deal/fair amount of trust in state gov't

ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings 2014

Mercatus Center Economic Freedom Ranking  2013

Unemployment
Rate March 2014

North Dakota

77

4

2

2.6

Wyoming

76

10

39

4

Utah

75

1

8

4.1

South Dakota

74

2

1

3.7

Nebraska

73

35

19

3.7

Texas

72

13

14

5.5

Alaska

71

18

24

6.6

Top Seven

74.0

11.9

15.3

4.3

         

Illinois

28

48

37

8.4

Rhode Island

40

41

44

8.7

Maine

40

40

43

5.9

Pennsylvania

46

33

30

6

Louisiana

48

29

34

4.5

California

49

47

49

8.1

Maryland

49

34

40

5.6

Bottom Seven

42.9

38.9

39.6

6.7

Sources: “Illinois Residents Least Trusting of Their State Government,” by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, April 4, 2014; Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, 2014, by Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams; “Freedom in the 50 States 2013,” Mercatus Center; Unemployment Rates for States, March 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted on 05/02/14 02:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

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