By Kathryn Watson
Americans tend to be most confident in state governments with sound finances, and least confident in states with poor finances, according to a 2015 Gallup survey analyzed by nonprofit financial watchdog Truth in Accounting (TIA).
“We see a pretty strong relationship — states in worse financial shape tend to rank poorly on trust in state government, and states in good shape tend to rank higher on trust, at least according to the Gallup poll,” Bill Bergman, TIA research director, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Only 25 percent of residents in debt-riddled and least-trusted Illinois expressed confidence in their state government, while 81 percent of residents in low-unemployment, most-trusted North Dakota expressed confidence in their state government, according to the Gallup survey of 500 people conducted over nine months in 2015.
Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey followed Illinois among the least-trusted governments, with confidence levels at 33 percent, 39 percent and 41 percent, respectively. Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana followed North Dakota with confidence levels at 76 percent, 74 percent and 72 percent, respectively.
The free-markets-oriented Mercatus Center rates Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey among the states in worst fiscal shape, and North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana among the states in best fiscal shape.
Trust relates directly and indirectly to how a state manages its finances, Bergman said.
“States in bad financial shape directly pose consequences like higher taxes or reduced services to residents,” Bergman said. “And states in bad shape also tend to be those with higher shares of debt hidden, until recently, off of their publicly-reported balance sheets.”
But other factors — like corruption — play into trust or lack thereof, too, Bergman said. Illinois, with excessively generous and seriously underfunded public pensions draining the state’s finances, has also sent multiple high-profile politicians to prison.
Those include former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who attempted to sell his appointment of a successor in President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat in exchange for political favors. (RELATED: Judicial Watch Sues Justice Dept. For Blagojevich And Obama Transcripts)
Residents in low-trust states often vote with their feet.
“We also see a pretty strong relationship between trust in state government and outmigration,” Bergman said. “States scoring low on trust also tend to be experiencing higher out-migration in recent years.”
Bergman said politicians in states with low trust ratings should take a look at what the most-trusted states are doing right.