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Study: Washington officials see public as largely uninformed

Study: Washington officials see public as largely uninformed
(J. David Ake / AP)

Federal officials view Americans as largely uninformed on key public policy issues, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University.

A survey of 850 federal bureaucrats conducted by Hopkins finds that most non-elected officials think Americans know "very little" about key issues. Researchers found 73 percent of government officials think the public knows little or nothing about programs aimed at helping the poor, for instance.

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The yearlong study was conducted by political scientists Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsberg. It will appear in a book -- "What Washington Gets Wrong: The Unelected Officials Who Actually Run the Government and Their Misconceptions about the American People" -- to be published next week.

"This disdain for the public results from the wide gulf between the life experiences of ordinary Americans and the denizens of official Washington," the authors write.

"Official Washington is wealthier, whiter and better educated than ordinary citizens. It lives in its own inside-the-Beltway bubble, where Washingtonians converse with one another and rarely interact on an intellectual plane with Americans at large."

The results and the book come during a presidential election that has amplified a sense among many voters that Washington is out of touch with the citizens they serve. Republican nominee Donald Trump has largely built a campaign around that theme.

The findings are based on a study of officials working at federal agencies, on Capitol Hill and in other Washington policy jobs.

Researchers found that 71 percent of federal officials think the public knows little or nothing about science and technology policy. Just over six in 10 think the public knows almost nothing about childcare.

Earlier findings from the study released in 2014 indicated that the federal workforce is whiter, richer, more educated and more liberal than the rest of the country.

At the time, a spokeswoman with the American Federation of Government Employees, said the study had "horrendously misrepresented the federal workplace."

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