A Vote of No Confidence: How Americans View Presidential Appointees

As Thomas Jefferson prepared for his first term as president, he expressed his desire to “compose an administration whose talents, integrity, names, and dispositions, should at once inspire unbounded confidence in the public mind, and insure a perfect harmony in the conduct of the public business.” Far from inspiring “unbounded confidence in the public mind,” many Americans believe that today’s appointees are motivated more by personal ambition than the public good, are lacking in character and can thank large campaign contributions, rather than qualifications, for their positions.

While many Americans follow news stories about presidential appointments and have a good understanding of the process, a nationwide survey of 1,000 adults suggests that most Americans have little confidence in the people selected to lead the nation. The secret to regaining the public’s trust may be both obvious and politically unassailable: presidents should make clear that qualifications always are more important than political connections in the choice of nominees.