Dr. Cynthia Shinabarger Reed, an Organizational Psychologist with the National Business Research Institute (NBRI) recently presented a paper at Oxford University for a session of the Oxford Round Table. The paper “A Survey of Perceptions of, Attitudes Toward, and Trust in United States Government” covered the results of a study conducted by NBRI.
The Oxford Round Table convenes to consider major issues in contemporary educational policy in order to promote human advancement and understanding through the improvement of education. The Round Table also considers important public policy matters bearing on human rights, law, economics, public finance and politics.
Each session of the Round Table is comprised of a small select group of leaders from both the public and private sectors of numerous countries. Participation is by invitation only. Past delegates have included Ministers of Education, governors from the United States, members of Parliament, Executive Officers of international corporations, educational administrators, attorneys and academicians from major universities.
The Oxford Round Table is a unique forum in that it provides select leaders and scholars the opportunity to discuss government policy in a collegial, “think-tank” atmosphere in the ancient city of Oxford. The results of Round Table deliberations have been published and distributed to individuals, governments and academic institutions around the world. Sessions have been sponsored by the British Council, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hague, Netherlands.
Dr. Reed presented at a session on “Ethical Sentiments: The Waning of Trust in Government.” The topic was approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. In her paper, Dr. Reed presented the results of NBRI’s study on trust in government. A total of 2,342 adults participated.
Respondents in the study were asked their opinions about whether the U.S., overall, is headed in the right or wrong direction. Twenty-eight percent of respondents replied they thought the U.S. is headed in the right direction, 58% in the wrong direction, and 14% replied that they were not sure.
Respondents were also asked their opinions about what the most important issue is in America today. They were asked to choose among the following: crime, education, foreign relations, healthcare, illegal drugs, illegal immigration, poverty, terrorism, the economy, the environment, the war in Iraq, or unemployment. The four most frequently selected issues were illegal immigration (23%), healthcare (17%), terrorism (15%), and the war in Iraq (13%).
A 6-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree was used for the items “I believe the U.S. government spends money in an ethical manner” and “I trust the U.S. government to do what is right.” Seventy-seven percent of respondents disagreed that the government spends money in an ethical manner and 70% disagreed that the government can be trusted to do what is right.
When asked whether their level of trust in the U.S. government had increased, decreased, or stayed the same in recent years, four percent of participants stated that it had increased, 71% replied that it had decreased, 24% responded that it had stayed the same and one percent said they were not sure. These results are consistent with other findings in the literature that indicate trust in government has been waning in recent years.
Dr. Reed, who holds a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in Applied-Experimental Psychology, joined NBRI as a consultant in 1996. She is also a professor of psychology and sociology at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas and is pursuing a doctorate in sociology at Texas Woman’s University.
NBRI specializes in psychological research for business. They perform employee and customer surveys to help their clients implement action plans that bring about maximum improvement with the least amount of time and manpower.