ND ranks first in positive views of state government
North Dakotans trust their state government to handle the state’s issues more than people in any other state.
A Gallup poll released last week shows that 77 percent of North Dakota residents trust their state government “a great deal” or “a fair amount.”
That nips a handful of other Midwestern and western states. North Dakota was followed closely by Wyoming, at 76 percent; Utah, 75 percent; South Dakota, 74 percent; and Nebraska, 73 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum is Illinois, where only 28 percent say they have at least a fair amount of trust in state government.
In Minnesota, the percentage is 62 percent.
The results are based on a 50-state Gallup poll conducted between June and December. The poll included interviews with at least 600 residents in each state.
Dana Harsell, UND associate professor of political science, said the results reflect North Dakota’s history and culture of a government that is close to the people.
“In many ways, government ‘is us’,” he said.
“People like to say North Dakota has more democracy than any state in the union,” he said. “Having access, being able to talk to leaders, that can help foster trust.”
Harsell, co-author of a textbook, Governing North Dakota, 2013-2015, points out that North Dakota has one unit of government per every 262 people. The number includes the all the units of governments, including the 357 incorporated cities, 179 operating school districts, and 1,315 townships, among others.
“It is likely that most of us know someone in some level of government and that provides a lot of transparency and can help generate trust,” he said.
Lots of contact
Jason Flohrs, executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party, said the poll results just add to the praise the state has received under Republican leadership. He cited the state twice being named by the Wall Street Journal as being the nation’s best-run state, and a recent ranking as the happiest state.
Flohrs also mentioned North Dakotans’ access to elected officials.
“If you have a question, you aren’t stuck just talking to staff, you can talk directly to that local official — whether in the office or in a coffee shop or the grocery store,” he said. “Not many states get that kind of access to their elected officials that North Dakotans take for granted.”
Chad Oban, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said the results are not surprising, adding that they likely would have been similar had the poll been conducted 10 or 15 years ago, or even longer.
But he suggested that it’s more about public workers and politicians.
“For someone living in North Dakota, there’s a pretty good chance that one or more of their friends or neighbors work for state government,” he said. “It says something about our stellar public employees. The public generally has good experiences when they deal with state government agencies and with public employees.”
This is the first time Gallup has polled trust in state government at the state level. In the past, the Gallup has measured Americans’ trust in their state governments on a national basis.
The most recent national estimate, from September 2013, found that 62 percent of all Americans having a great deal or fair amount of trust in their state government.
Trust is generally higher in states in the upper Midwest and Plains states, and the northern Mountain region states. The poll showed above-average trust levels in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
On the Web: See the Gallup poll at http://bit.ly/PsR7hF.