Based on the Salvation Army and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy's Human Needs Index and data from the General Social Survey, American National Election Studies, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the report found that people in states with lower levels of trust in government had higher levels of need. Based on the Salvation Army's tracking of basic assistance, including meals, groceries, clothing, housing, furniture, medical services, and help with energy bills, the analysis found that where residents were less trusting of government, they were more likely to turn to a nonprofit organization such as the Salvation Army for assistance and that where trust in government was higher, usage of the Salvation Army's services was lower.
According to the study, Colorado, Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Dakota had higher need (according to their HNI scores) and lower trust in government, while Delaware, Virginia, and Oregon showed relatively high levels of trust in government and low HNI scores.
"There are several potential explanations for a greater dependence on the Salvation Army in states with lower opinions and attitudes about trusting the federal government," said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "One potential explanation is that government welfare programs may be under-provided in low-trust states, prompting people in need to turn to other sources of help. Another possibility is that individuals in those states may be facing barriers or prefer to receive services from community organizations and nonprofits instead."
"This new way of looking at how trust in government influences the way people get help fighting poverty underscores the importance of government and charities working hand-in-hand," said Lt. Col. Ward Matthews, the Salvation Army's national community relations and development secretary. "It's also a wake-up call for nonprofits who rely on the generosity of the American people to meet human need. If trust in government continues to decline, our role will be increasingly important in meeting the daily needs of our fellow Americans."