In the days following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., public trust and confidence in the federal government soared, despite a catastrophic failure to detect and deflect the terrorist attacks. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks, 64 percent of those responding to a Washington Post poll said they "trust the government in Washington to do what is right 'just about always' or 'most of the time.' " In April 2000, just 30 percent of Americans showed such support. That we trust in the federal government in times of need is no surprise, but at least since the early 1970s, most Americans claimed not to trust the federal government most of the time - until recently. In The Generation of Trust, David C. King and Zachary Karabell show that the rally-around-the-flag effect we have seen since September 11 is part of a longer trend partly driven by a new generation of Americans, largely Generation X (born 1961 through 1975) and especially Millenials (born after 1975). The authors look at why this new generation trusts the government and especially the U.S. military more deeply that their Baby Boomer parents ever have.
Relying upon extensive polling data, The Generation of Trust explores the "generation" of trust in the military that has taken place since the end of the Vietnam War, noting that confidence in the leaders of the military is an anomaly. King and Karabell show that this confidence has risen just as confidence in most other institutions has declined. They focus on the performance and professionalism of the U.S. military largely since the end of the draft and the beginning of the allvolunteer force in 1974. In addition, they consider the "persuasion," or careful use of advertising, movies, and the news to portray the military's improved performance and professionalism in the best light. The Generation of Trust is an important and illuminating study of how the military gained and sustained the public trust and also how other institutions - including federal government as well as law, medicine, education, and religion - can emulate the success of the military in improving its public image.