Politics

CDC Tops Agency Ratings; Federal Reserve Board Lowest

by Lydia Saad

NASA ratings remain high, while Federal Reserve has lost ground

PRINCETON, NJ -- At a time when Americans are discouraged about the direction of the country and hesitant about the scope of President Barack Obama's federal budget plans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, and the FBI earn credit for a job well done from a majority of Americans. The 61% who say the CDC is doing an excellent or good job can be contrasted with the 30% who say this of the Federal Reserve Board, making the latter the worst reviewed of nine agencies and departments rated in the July 10-12 Gallup Poll.

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The two national security-oriented groups included in the recent poll -- the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security -- receive moderate performance ratings, with just under half of Americans saying each is doing an excellent or good job.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Internal Revenue Service, and Food and Drug Administration fall a notch lower in the rankings, as close to 40% of Americans give each of them credit for doing an excellent or good job. The relatively low ranking of the FDA is of particular note with regard to the scrutiny the agency has been under, given recent attention to U.S. food safety.

The new poll, conducted just prior to the 40th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, moon landing by Apollo 11 -- perhaps the most celebrated of all NASA achievements -- finds NASA's rating about where it has been in recent years. While not nearly as high as it was in late 1998 (a month after John Glenn's successful return to space), NASA's current excellent/good score falls within the upper half of ratings it has received over the past two decades.

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Today's rating of the FDA is the first measured by Gallup, but all other agencies on the list were previously rated in September 2003 (NASA, as shown, has been rated multiple times). The only significant changes since that time are a sharp deterioration in perceptions about the Federal Reserve, and a decline in highly positive views toward the CDC.

In 2003, the slight majority of Americans, 53%, said the Federal Reserve was doing an excellent or good job and 5% called it poor. Today, 30% of Americans praise the job the Fed is doing, while nearly as many, 22%, call it poor. While this ratings downturn coincides with a substantial drop in consumer confidence toward the U.S. economy over the same period, it is unclear how much of the Fed's image decline is due to the general decline in the country's economic climate, as opposed to specific perceptions about the agency's performance in carrying out its monetary responsibilities and possibly its role in the crisis surrounding U.S. financial markets. The Fed's low excellent/good rating may also reflect the higher-than-average percentage of Americans having "no opinion" about this arm of the government, relative to the other agencies rated.

The CDC has had a particularly high public profile since April, when cases of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, were first detected in the United States. Whether its role in tracking the disease and informing Americans about the illness has elevated or hurt the agency's image is not clear. However, compared with six years ago, fewer Americans believe the agency is doing an "excellent" job -- now 11%, down from 18%. Overall, the percentage saying it is doing an excellent or good job is now 61%, down from 66%.

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Bottom Line

Americans are broadly satisfied with the work the CDC, NASA, and the FBI are doing. The CIA and the Department of Homeland Security are also fairly well reviewed; however, the current job ratings of the EPA, IRS, FDA, and Federal Reserve Board all have significant room for improvement.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 10-12, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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