The results of a survey released Tuesday by Transparency International show that compared to early 2016 more Americans now believe corruption is on the rise in the US and that the White House is the most corrupt of nine key institutions.
The levels of perceived corruption in government institutions were already high in 2016. Citizens are now more critical of their government’s performance in tackling corruption, and expressed concern in a number of areas.
The results of the US Corruption Barometer 2017 show:
- 44 per cent of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House, up from 36 per cent in 2016.
- 58 per cent of people say the level of corruption has risen in the past twelve months, up from 34 per cent who said the same in January 2016.
- Almost 7 out of 10 people believe the government is failing to fight corruption, up from half in 2016.
- 55 per cent gave fear of retaliation as the main reason not to report corruption, up from 31 per cent in 2016.
- Close to a third of African-Americans surveyed see the police as highly corrupt, compared to a fifth across the survey overall.
- 74 per cent said ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, up 4 percentage points from 2016.
“There is a clear sense that people feel corruption has gotten worse. In January 2016, Americans were already distrustful of Washington. Last year Congress fared the worst in this survey. This year it is the White House, followed by Congress. Our elected officials are failing to build back trust in Washington’s ability to serve the people, and still appear to represent elite corporate interests,” said Zoe Reiter, US Representative at Transparency International.
Washington Scores Badly
Respondents were asked whether they think some, none, most or all people are corrupt in nine influential groups.
In both 2016 and 2017, the Office of the President, members of Congress and government officials were seen as the most corrupt. In 2017, the White House overtook Congress.
Local government fared better than federal institutions, indicating that people place more trust in their representatives closer to home. Judges are seen as the least corrupt of the nine groups we asked about.
Retaliation Keeps People from Speaking Out
The good news is that three quarters of Americans believe they can make a difference in the fight against corruption, though they have changed their views on how this can best be done. Today fewer people believe the ballot box is the best way (down from 34 per cent in 2016 to 28 per cent in 2017).
About a fifth of all respondents said the most effective strategy would be reporting corruption.
However, the survey revealed a worrying increase in those who say that the main reason people do not report corruption is because they are afraid of the consequences, up from 31 per cent in 2016 to 55 per cent in 2017. Sixteen per cent said the main reason people do not report corruption is because nothing will be done.
These results are a snapshot of national sentiments and indicate that our elected leaders in Washington have much more work to do to win back the trust of citizens.
Transparency International calls on the US Government to address the following:
- Transparency in political spending: Make all spending on politics genuinely transparent, with:
- real-time information accessible in online, machine-readable form to the public
- transparency on political spending by publicly traded companies
- transparency to the public on every level of influence, from political ad campaigns, to lobbying, to bundled campaign contributions.
- Prevention of revolving doors: Stop the unchecked exchange of personnel among corporations, lobbyists and our elected and high-level government officials.
- Establishing who owns what: End the use of anonymous shell companies, which can be a source of conflict of interest and/or vehicles for illicit activity.
- Strengthening the ethics infrastructure: Reinforce the independence and oversight capabilities of the Office of Government Ethics.
- Protection of whistle-blowers: Improve and implement laws and regulations to protect the whistle-blowers who expose corruption and other misconduct by the government and its contractors.
- Providing basic access to information: Increase access to information about the government, as a means to empower the public to fight corruption.