image1-2Check out the map associated with Chuck DeVore‘s latest contribution to The Federalist website, and one feature should leap out at you: North Carolina’s government is less trustworthy than those of its neighboring states, according to a Gallup poll.

DeVore offers ideas to help governments in all states do a better job earning their residents’ trust.

Other than elected officials going jail or running the state into the ground, might there be other factors in play that determine or are related to trust? This question is especially of interest since Texas, the second-most-populous state, has the sixth most-trusted state government while California, the most-populous state, ranks as the sixth-least trustworthy. (Significantly, Gallup’s polling was completed before the conviction of a Democratic California state senator on eight counts of voter fraud and the recent arrest and indictment of two more Democratic state senators for corruption.)

Looking at Gallup’s state government trust map (below) it is difficult to divine any obvious correlations beyond that smaller states tend to be more trusted by their constituents. Neither typical demographic factors, term limits, excise taxes on alcohol or cigarettes, nor religious affiliation appear to be an issue in citizens’ trust of their state government.

Which factors correlated well with increased trust in government?

Strong correlation to trust

  • Commute time factored with state and local taxes (more trust with shorter commutes and lower taxes): 0.3399
  • Commute time factored with state and local taxes and legislative days (more trust with shorter commutes, lower taxes and less time legislature is in session): 0.3564
  • Taxes factored with gun rights and lawsuit climate (more trust with lower taxes, stronger 2d Amendment rights, and less frivolous lawsuits): 0.3795
  • Commute time factored with taxes, gun rights and lawsuit climate (more trust with shorter commute, lower taxes, stronger 2d Amendment rights, and less frivolous lawsuits): 0.4108

As mentioned, Gallup said in their survey that “In general, trust is lower in more populous states than in less populous states…” but, as noted above, population could only explain about 6 percent of the trust difference between the states. Rather than mere population in a state, certain policies are linked far more strongly to trust, such as, is government perceived as meeting its basic obligations while keeping the tax burden light? Does government respect the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms? Is state government perceived to be captive to the interests of trial attorneys? That’s why the last combination of factors, commute time, taxes, gun rights and the lawsuit climate can explain about 41 percent of the variation in state trust.

So, kudos to the citizens, lawmakers, governors, and other elected officials of North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Alaska, Montana, Indiana, and Iowa for running the ten most-trusted states. If others want to follow and gain greater citizen trust all they have to do is stop growing the size and scope of government by cutting taxes, trusting their citizens to defend themselves, enacting lawsuit reform and prioritizing roads.