Is it the middle that is frustrated? Americans' ideological positions and governmental trust

John R Hibbing, James T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


One much-discussed explanation for the largely negative feelings Americans have harbored toward the federal government during the past 30 years or so is that whereas the people prefer centrist policies, elites persist in presenting and debating noncentrist policy solutions. As a result, the argument continues, many people are frustrated by policy debates that seem to be irrelevant to their own concerns and preferences. If this explanation is correct, parties and elites could boost public trust simply by moving closer to the policy center. But as yet, the "frustrated-moderate" thesis has been largely untested. Thus, in this article, using survey research, we determine the extent to which frustration with American government is indeed traceable to the fact that people possess policy positions more moderate than those of politicos. We find the evidence for this proposition to be lacking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-678
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2004



  • Government
  • Ideology
  • Moderate
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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