Despite Trump's Constant Attacks, Key Intelligence and Scientific Agencies Remain Popular Among U.S. Public

US President Donald Trump returns to the White House in Washington, DC after his annual visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 4, 2019. A new survey has documented consistent support among the U.S. public for federal agencies whose work the Trump administration has attempted to undermine. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/Getty

As President Donald Trump has embarked on a decisive campaign to discredit that country's bureaucrats and career officials—often branding them as members of the "deep state"—the public largely has not succumbed to his attacks on key federal agencies, a new survey from the Pew Research Center has found.

In a poll of U.S. adults conducted in September, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Census Bureau, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency all earned overwhelming approval ratings despite the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the offices privately or through the president's Twitter feed.

This news comes as public trust in the federal government has declined to historically-low levels among members of both parties. This suggests the president's attacks generally have succeeded in convincing Republicans to distrust the government overall, while Democrats may have lost faith due to the occupation of federal agencies by Trump appointees.

The FBI, which the president has falsely disparaged for fostering a deep-state coup against him, enjoys the support of 70 percent of the country. It appears the president's anti-FBI rhetoric has not permeated within his own party, as 66 percent of Republicans still have a favorable view of the agency.

Throughout the special counsel's investigation into Russian election interference, Trump repeatedly claimed the FBI was attempting to undermine his legitimacy.

"This was a coup, this was an attempted overthrow of the United States government," Trump said in April of the Russia investigation the agency was conducting. "This was a coup. This wasn't stealing information from an office in the Watergate apartments. This was an attempted coup, like a Third World country."

After senior intelligence officials in the administration contradicted Trump's assessment of foreign relations with North Korea and Iran, the president blasted the intelligence community on Twitter.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong," he wrote. "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school."

President Trump Holds News Conference In Rose Garden On Census And Citzenship
U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a Rose Garden statement on the census July 11, 2019 at the White House in Washington, DC. President Trump, who had previously pushed to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, announced that he would direct the Commerce Department to collect that data in other ways. Alex Wong/Getty

Not only does the public maintain strong support for the intelligence community, but the scientific community—which has perhaps more than any other federal sector endured unyielding attacks—still earns the public's trust.

The CDC, Census Bureau and EPA, all of which employ career officials whose work has sometimes been countermanded by the Trump administration, have favorability ratings from a majority of the U.S. public. Fifty-seven percent of adults think favorably of the EPA, an environmental agency currently helmed by a coal lobbyist, which works to guard against the effects of climate change, something Trump has derided as a "hoax" invented by China.

The Census Bureau has also been dragged into the political fray over a hotly-contested battle to add a citizenship question to the bureau's decennial population count. The president fiercely defended his administration's attempts to single out non-citizens, despite the Constitution's mandate to count all U.S. residents. Despite this unusual politicization of staid, economic work, the bureau has a 69-percent favorability rating, according to Pew.

And the CDC remains popular among U.S. adults as well, with an 80-percent favorability rating. Despite the agency's traditionally independent role as a scientific body, reporting from 2017 revealed that the administration attempted to exclude 'forbidden words' from the CDC's official documents. Words like "evidence-based" and "diversity" were reportedly prohibited from the agency's budget requests. Much public uproar ensued, launching the agency's quiet work into the public discourse for the first time in a while.

While these key agencies have managed to rise above the scrum of partisan bickering, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the most prominent, public-facing immigration agency, is received strictly along party lines. Seventy percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of ICE, compared with just 19 percent of Democrats. The agency is the most polarizing out of any whose support among the public was measured by Pew.