In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandal. The update -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.
However, public cynicism about America’s moral standards is high, as evidenced in the annual Values and Morals poll conducted by Gallup since 2002. In the latest poll, released last June, a record high 49 percent of respondents rated moral values in the U.S. as poor, and only 14 percent rated them excellent or good.
The perception that unethical behavior is increasingly commonplace could have a snowball effect, says Andrew Cullison, a philosophy professor who heads DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics.
“People think that if moral standards have eroded, why should they play by the rules,” he said. “If they’ve lost trust in some entity or institution, then that organization has lost the right to their compliance with the rules.”
Cullison said President Trump and his administration may be contributing to those perceptions with their departure from some longstanding ethical norms. Trump, for example, has refused to release his tax returns, as other recent presidents did, and has neither divested his business holdings or placed them in a blind trust.
“It’s the objective truth that norms of conduct are being violated,” Cullison said. “Where people differ is how outraged they are. If you’re getting what you want (in terms of policy), you’ll be more willing to look the other way.”Last year, Tom Scheck reported at APM:
A growing chorus of ethics officials, including the acting director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, warns that President Trump's conduct related to his business interests is causing a dangerously negative public perception of the nation's ethics system.
"These are perilous times," said David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics. His comments came in a rare interview earlier this month that happened to be the same day President Trump nominated someone to replace him.
Apol worries that the president's decision to not divest from his sprawling business holdings and the scandals involving Trump's Cabinet are causing public distrust in the federal government.
"When the head of your organization, the head of your government says these rules aren't important enough for me to comply with, that makes the program challenging. And that changes the relationship, the way people view the ethics program," he said.
In a recent poll by Transparency International, 44 percent of respondents said they believe that most or all of the officials in the Office of the President are corrupt — an 8 percent increase from 2016. The poll also found that 58 percent of Americans polled believe corruption is getting worse.
Other polling finds that public trust in government remains near historic lows under President Trump. Only 18 percent of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right, according to polling by the Pew Research Center