In this era of political division, technology can be a unifier. While only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the Federal government to do what is right for them and their families all or most of the time, the vast majority (68 percent) say Federal spending on technology is worth the investment. That sentiment crosses party lines, with 79 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of independents in agreement.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from new research released today by MeriTalk and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. was conducted in June 2021.

The survey results show a dramatic bifurcation in how Americans regard the promise and value of technology, versus their feelings about the competence of the Federal government. Among the most dramatic findings:

  • Just 9 percent feel confident in the government’s ability to spend money in the public interest
  • But, 78 percent say technology investment is key to improving the United States’ standing as a global economic leader

The battered state of citizen trust in government also shows its roots in the equitable delivery of services, and performance during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey found that just 22 percent trust the Federal government to deliver services fairly to all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or other characteristics. And only 21 percent feel the Federal government has been very effective at responding to the public’s needs during the public health crisis.

On the government trust front, however, the public’s faith in government over the longer term may be more abiding: 76 percent of survey respondents believe that the Federal government will be as or more important in improving the lives of Americans over the next ten years.

“These findings show that many Americans are still optimistic about the government’s potential to make specific and positive changes for people’s lives, even though they don’t have a lot of confidence in how well it’s generally working today,” said Jennifer Benz, deputy director of The AP-NORC Center.

Bridging the gaping trust gap between technology and government – and coming up with new ideas for how government can advance technology can make peoples’ lives better – are a major push behind MeriTalk’s MerITocracy American Innovation Forum set for July 2022. A digital Davos in D.C., MerITocracy features 10 bipartisan Congressional leaders as well as industry CEOs and executives from the Biden Administration.

“In a polarized political environment, this research provides a roadmap for the government as it pushes forward with a massive bi-partisan infrastructure investment in our nation’s future,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “We’re hosting the MerITocracy conference on July 21, 2022 to bring together Congressional leaders from both parties with leaders from the administration and industry to debate America’s innovation agenda – we’re all voting for a brighter future.”

So what do the American people really want out of government and technology? The MeriTalk/AP-NORC survey finds:

  • 78 percent would benefit from expanded telehealth options
  • 77 percent want increased access to healthcare providers and health records online
  • 71 percent want their data privacy treated as a national security issue
  • 80 percent want stronger punishments for cyber criminals
  • 69 percent want more funding for technology R&D

The final stat: just one in five Americans say the Federal government is very or extremely effective at adapting to the digital world. That gulf between effectiveness and aspiration of the problems that technology can solve is at the heart of MerITocracy. We’ll be telling you more soon about the American Innovation Forum, and how you can get involved.

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