U.S. Mint & FAA Receive Highest Ratings of 17 Government Agencies; FBI, CDC, NIH, CIA and Office of the Surgeon General Also Well Regarded

New York, N.Y. – February 26, 2015 – Eight in ten (79%) U.S. adults who understand what the U.S. Mint does rate the job it’s doing positively (i.e., excellent or pretty good), making it the highest rated of 17 government agencies tested. Other agencies with strong positive ratings include the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA (75%), The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI (72%), the Centers for Disease Control or CDC (69%), The National Institutes of Health or NIH (68%), the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA (67%) and the Office of the Surgeon General (66%).

The agencies with the lowest positive ratings are the Internal Revenue Service or IRS (43%), the Social Security Administration (48%), the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC (49%), and the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA (50%), followed by the Transportation Security Administration or TSA (54%) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or HHS (55%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,232 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 14 and 20, 2015, in a survey that asked the public to rate 17 of the most visible federal government agencies. The poll used the same questions featured in six previous polls over the past 15 years. This year’s iteration added two new government agencies: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

SEC ratings improve greatly; still well below pre-recession levels

In 2007, seven in ten (71%) of those who understood what the SEC did rated the job it was doing positively. Then the recession hit, and by 2009 that positive rating had plummeted to only 29%, a drop of 42 percentage points. Fast forward these results; with the recession now officially a few years behind us and the economy rebounding somewhat, SEC perceptions seem to be making a recovery of their own. The 49% rating it positively represents 20 percentage points’ growth since 2009, albeit also representing a 22 point shortfall when compared to 2007 results.

The 20-point rise in the SEC’s positive ratings is the biggest change – by a wide margin – in any agency’s ratings since these questions were last asked in 2009. What’s more, The SEC’s rating has proven to be the most volatile, varying by 42 percentage over the course of the 15 years The Harris Poll has conducted this study (from a peak of 71% in 2001 and again in 2007 to the 2009 low point of 29%).

Other ups and downs

At 79%, positive ratings for the U.S. Mint showed little change vs. 2009 (when 80% rated it positively). Some of the other chart-toppers, however, showed more volatility.

  • The FAA’s positive ratings (75%) represent an increase of 17 points over its score in 2000 (the study’s inaugural year, when 58% gave it positive ratings) and 4 points since 2009 (when 71% did the same).
  • Positive ratings for the FBI (72%) are up four points from its first inclusion in the study (in 2001, when 68% gave it positive ratings) and down three points from its 2009 peak (when 75% indicated the same).

Between Ebola’s arrival in the U.S. a few months ago and the more recent coverage of measles outbreaks and vaccination debates, the CDC and NIH have frequently been in the news of late. As such, some ratings volatility might be expected.

  • Though the CDC is among the agencies with strongest ratings, it’s worth noting that at 69%, its positive rating is a 7-point drop from 2009 (76%) and a 21-point drop from its 2003 peak (90%).
  • The NIH, meanwhile, shows modest growth in positive ratings (currently at 68%) when compared to both 2000 (63%) and 2009 (65%), but remains down 12 points when compared to its 2003 peak (80%).

Elsewhere in notable highs and lows:

  • Two-thirds (67%) rate the CIA positively, representing a 10-point improvement over its inaugural inclusion in 2001 (57%) and a 4-point improvement over 2009 (63%).
  • Positive ratings for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA (63%) and the TSA (54%) are somewhat stable when compared to 2009 results (with a 2-point increase and a 1-point decrease, respectively) but down notably (by 10 and 9 points, respectively) when compared to 2007, the first year either was included in the study.
  • The EPA, meanwhile, sits right between its first and most recent historic ratings – with 50% rating it positively, it’s down 6 points from 2000 (56%) but up 6 points from 2009 (44%). Compared to its highest rating on record (64% in 2001), it’s down by 14 points.

Party perspectives

Positive sentiments toward many of the agencies peak among Democrats, who are more likely than either Republicans or Independents to give positive ratings to:

  • The Office of the Surgeon General (76% Democrats vs. 59% of Republicans and 61% of Independents)
  • The Department of Homeland Security (64% vs. 55% and 52%)
  • The HHS (66% vs. 49% and 47%)
  • The TSA (62% vs. 54% and 43%)
  • The EPA (59% 44% each)
  • The Social Security Administration (58% vs. 40% and 43%), and
  • The IRS (51% vs. 34% and 38%).

Republicans, meanwhile, are more likely than either Democrats or Independents to give the FBI (79% of Republicans vs. 72% of Democrats and 67% of Independents) and the CIA (75% vs. 64% each) positive ratings.

The FDA represents a rare point of party unity, with both Republicans (58%) and Democrats (62%) more likely than Independents (48%) to give the agency positive ratings.

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TABLE 1

PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO UNDERSTAND WHAT EACH GOVERNMENT AGENCY DOES

Trend

Please indicate whether or not you understand what each of the following federal government agencies is and does?

Base: U.S. Adults

2000

2001

2003

2004

2007

2009

2015

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA

93

94

98

97

93

94

92

The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI

N/A

96

97

96

93

93

90

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS

95

96

97

96

94

93

90

The Social Security Administration

94

95

96

94

90

91

90

The Centers for Disease Control or CDC

86

85

96

92

90

90

89

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

88

86

85

The Department of Homeland Security

N/A

N/A

81

86

82

85

85

The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA

N/A

87

87

91

87

86

84

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA

90

90

90

93

87

88

83

The US Mint

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

88

83

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA

78

85

85

88

85

86

81

The Transportation Security Administration or TSA

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

69

73

77

The US Department of Health and Human Services or HHS

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

76

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

75

The Office of the Surgeon General

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

73

70

The Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC

54

58

76

69

63

63

62

The National Institutes of Health or NIH

57

61

61

62

63

58

56

N/A=Not applicable. The agency was not offered as a choice at that time.


TABLE 2

RATINGS OF FEDERAL AGENCIES

Overall, how would you rate the job each of these federal government agencies does?

Base: Understand what (agency) is and does

Excellent/Pretty Good (NET)

Only Fair/ Poor (NET)

Excellent

Pretty Good

Only Fair

Poor

%

%

%

%

%

%

The US Mint

79

21

22

57

18

3

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA

75

25

14

60

22

3

The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI

72

28

15

57

24

4

The Centers for Disease Control or CDC

69

31

16

53

26

5

The National Institutes of Health or NIH

68

32

14

54

27

6

The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA

67

33

12

55

26

7

The Office of the Surgeon General

66

34

13

53

28

6

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA

63

37

9

54

30

7

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC

60

40

9

51

33

7

The Department of Homeland Security

58

42

11

47

33

9

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA

57

43

9

48

34

9

The US Department of Health and Human Services or HHS

55

45

8

47

34

11

The Transportation Security Administration or TSA

54

46

8

46

35

11

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA

50

50

7

43

35

14

The Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC

49

51

7

42

38

13

The Social Security Administration

48

52

9

39

39

14

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS

43

57

8

35

36

21

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3

POSITIVE RATINGS TREND

Base: Understand what (agency) is and does

2000

2001

2003

2004

2007

2009

2015

CHANGE SINCE 1ST YEAR IN STUDY

CHANGE 2009-2015

% POINTS VOLATILITY

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

<± range>

The US Mint

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

80

79

-1

-1

<±1>

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA

58

54

76

77

78

71

75

17

4

<±24>

The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI

N/A

68

69

64

74

75

72

4

-3

<±11>

The Centers for Disease Control or CDC

78

79

90

84

84

76

69

-9

-7

<±21>

The National Institutes of Health or NIH

63

77

80

71

75

65

68

5

3

<±17>

The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA

N/A

57

57

53

61

63

67

10

4

<±14>

The Office of the Surgeon General

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

68

66

-2

-2

<±2>

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

73

61

63

-10

2

<±12>

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

60

N/A

N/A

N/A

The Department of Homeland Security

N/A

N/A

56

59

56

58

58

2

=

<±3>

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA

62

67

68

65

62

54

57

-5

3

<±14>

The US Department of Health and Human Services or HHS

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

55

N/A

N/A

N/A

The Transportation Security Administration or TSA

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

63

55

54

-9

-1

<±9>

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA

56

64

55

53

55

44

50

-6

6

<±20>

The Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC

53

71

57

62

71

29

49

-4

20

<±42>

The Social Security Administration

48

60

48

51

40

44

48

=

4

<±20>

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS

44

63

51

54

55

49

43

-1

-6

<±20>

Positive = excellent or pretty good

N/A=Not applicable. The agency was not offered as a choice at that time.

 

 

TABLE 4

POSITIVE RATINGS BY GENERATION & POLITICAL PARTY

Overall, how would you rate the job each of these federal government agencies does?

Base: Understand what (agency) is and does

Total

Generation

Political Party

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The US Mint

79

73

74

83

91

81

81

77

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA

75

70

72

77

84

79

75

71

The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI

72

72

69

71

76

79

72

67

The Centers for Disease Control or CDC

69

67

61

73

79

67

74

66

The National Institutes of Health or NIH

68

66

65

67

76

66

74

63

The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA

67

69

65

66

67

75

64

64

The Office of the Surgeon General

66

69

61

63

77

59

76

61

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA

63

63

60

62

74

64

66

60

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC

60

63

52

60

68

60

66

55

The Department of Homeland Security

58

64

53

57

57

55

64

52

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA

57

59

53

56

58

58

62

48

The US Department of Health and Human Services or HHS

55

59

50

52

60

49

66

47

The Transportation Security Administration or TSA

54

57

46

53

60

54

62

43

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA

50

54

45

51

46

44

59

44

The Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC

49

52

42

48

59

58

50

41

The Social Security Administration

48

41

40

54

60

40

58

43

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS

43

52

37

37

46

34

51

38

Positive = excellent or pretty good


TABLE 5

NEGATIVE RATINGS BY GENERATION & POLITICAL PARTY

Overall, how would you rate the job each of these federal government agencies does?

Base: Understand what (agency) is and does

Total

Generation

Political Party

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS

57

48

63

63

54

66

49

62

The Social Security Administration

52

59

60

46

40

60

42

57

The Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC

51

48

58

52

41

42

50

59

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA

50

46

55

49

54

56

41

56

The Transportation Security Administration or TSA

46

43

54

47

40

46

38

57

The US Department of Health and Human Services or HHS

45

41

50

48

40

51

34

53

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA

43

41

47

44

42

42

38

52

The Department of Homeland Security

42

36

47

43

43

45

36

48

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC

40

37

48

40

32

40

34

45

The US Department of Agriculture or USDA

37

37

40

38

26

36

34

40

The Office of the Surgeon General

34

31

39

37

23

41

24

39

The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA

33

31

35

34

33

25

36

36

The National Institutes of Health or NIH

32

34

35

33

24

34

26

37

The Centers for Disease Control or CDC

31

33

39

27

21

33

26

34

The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI

28

28

31

29

24

21

28

33

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA

25

30

28

23

16

21

25

29

The US Mint

21

27

26

17

9

19

19

23

Positive = only fair or poor


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between January 14 and 20, 2015 among 2,232 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #15, February 26, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll