The run-up to US president Donald Trump taking office saw a lot of talk about his myriad conflicts of interest. As the president-elect refused to meet the most rudimentary measures of transparency (such as releasing his tax returns), ethics experts from both parties tore into him. Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum railed about kleptocracy. The government ethics chief later resigned with the same warning.
Those fears are being echoed by the American people at large, according to a poll by the NGO Transparency International, held in October and November.
Its 1,005 respondents professed a dim view of their government. They said they believe that corruption has increased this year; the government is doing worse at fighting it; and people are afraid to report it.
A third—34%—thought corruption had increased “a lot” over the last year, compared to 13% in 2016.
Americans pointed the finger directly at Trump’s administration for the worsening state of affairs. Two-thirds of people think the government is doing badly at fighting corruption in government, and 41% think it’s doing “very badly.” (Only 21% thought it was doing “very badly” in 2016.)
Respondents also suggested that those who observe corruption are scared to report it, with more than half of respondents saying they thought people didn’t report corruption because they’re “afraid of the consequences.”
There was one sign of hope: Belief in the power of ordinary people to fight corruption is still high. When asked how best to fight corruption, 28% of respondents said you should vote for clean candidates in elections, and 21% said you should report it when you see or experience it.