Americans' trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low, according to a sobering new survey by the Pew Research Center.
Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government in Washington "almost always or most of the time" -- among the lowest measures in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.
And an increasing number -- almost 1 of every 3 people -- say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.
Pew asked people to say whether they were content, frustrated or angry with the federal government -- and 3 of every 4 people said they were either frustrated or angry.
The public's unalloyed hostility flows from what Pew Center Director Andrew Kohut characterizes as a perfect storm of conditions: a bad economy, backlash against Washington partisanship and "epic discontent" with elected officials that found fuel in this year's bitter health care debate.
"Health care reform contributed in the second half of last year to this growing concern about the power of government," Kohut tells NPR.
"The public," he says, "wants a less activist government."