Could it be that states earn citizens’ trust by sticking to doing the things that governments are supposed to be competent at doing—like putting thieves and murderers in jail, and building basic infrastructure—and otherwise letting free citizens pursue their interests? Could it be that states that tax more and regulate more in order to favor particular types of economic activities (e.g., green energy) are not as good at spending other people’s money as well as the people themselves—and thus earn more distrust by doing things at which they are not competent?
That’s a theory. Is it true?
We checked the trust results against the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom rankings from its 2013 Freedom in the 50 States index. We also checked the results against the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings from its 2014 Rich States, Poor States study. The ALEC-Laffer index looks at 15 variables including tax burdens, the progressivity of income taxes, the number of public employees, and whether a state has a right-to-work law on the books. …
… It certainly looks like states earn more trust by imposing fewer tax and regulatory burdens on their citizens. The seven most-trusted states have an average ranking of 11.9 in the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook measurement and an average ranking of 15.3 in the Mercatus Center’s economic freedom index. The corresponding average rankings for the seven least-trusted states are 38.9 and 39.6. (A ranking of 1, for example, means the state achieved a better score than each of the other 49 states; while a ranking of 50 means the state achieved a worse score than each of the other 49 states.)