Only 3 percent of Valley residents place "a great deal" of trust in the Arizona State Legislature. Just 16 percent of new governor J. Fife Symington's constituents trust him the same way.

Also down at 16 percent on the trust meter is the Arizona Republic, a daily newspaper.

Slightly more trustworthy was city government, at 18 percent.
No surprises so far. Trust, built over time, can be shattered in a second. The legislature (a pack of shady characters even in good years) is having a bad year. Symington is new on the job. The big newspaper and city government? In this day and age, in this city, nobody's going to put a lot of blind trust in any public institution. Oh, yeah?

Fully one third of the Phoenix-area residents surveyed last month by veteran Tempe pollster Michael O'Neil place "a great deal" of trust in local TV news.

You may be surprised at the lofty status of TV news, but O'Neil says he isn't. This is, after all, a business that spends millions of dollars on feel-good advertisements for itself and its stars, who are, of course, very concerned, committed, focused and visionary.

"The finding of TV news ranking higher than other media is not an unusual finding," says O'Neil. After all, network news shows and personalities typically top the charts when similar polls are conducted nationwide.

O'Neil got his data by calling 501 people at random. The respondents were asked if they placed "a great deal of trust," "some trust" or "little trust" in each of five Valley "public institutions."

"The state has taken a lot of bashes recently," says O'Neil, "and other work we've done suggested that there was a really mean mood with respect to a lot of institutions." He says he picked these particular "institutions" for no particular client and no particular reason--the idea just intrigued him. "Obviously, it's not a surprise that the legislature would end up at the bottom of the list," O'Neil says. "But, my God, 3 percent! I've never seen anything go that low."

In fact, the legislature's "great trust" rating of 3 percent was so low as to be mathematically insignificant; the poll's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percent. O'Neil points out that the State Capitol gang did achieve statistical significance in this poll, however. A whopping 57 percent of the people placed "little" trust--the lowest ranking offered--in the legislature.

Everybody--from every socioeconomic group and every academic background--distrusts the legislature equally, according to O'Neil's breakdown of the figures. But there were some differences when it came to other institutions. For example, the newspaper and TV news got their highest ratings from poorer and less-educated people.

No real shockers there, either. But this poll did surprise O'Neil in one way.

His polls usually generate lots of calls from newspaper reporters seeking an easy, sometimes splashy, story.

On this one, however, there has been zero interest from the daily print media.

No surprise there.

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Dave Walker