If you had to guess, what would you say Americans are most concerned about today? Exploding deficits? Rising unemployment? Affordable health care? According to the results of a new Rasmussen poll, it’s none of the above.

In a recent telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters, government ethics and corruption was singled out as the issue with 83 percent of respondents regarding it as “very important,” followed by the economy (82 percent) and health care (73 percent).

The new findings are intriguing on a few different levels. First, this marks the first time since January 2008 – right around the start of the recession – that government ethics and corruption has trumped the economy as the number one issue affecting likely voters. Second, the poll’s results reveal a growing sense of mistrust in government and the way it handles public money.

One need only read the daily news to understand why the public feels this way (see here, here, and here); stories of fraud, waste, and abuse in government litter the headlines. Interestingly though, these feelings of frustration are giving way to action.

Concern over the misuse of public money has led to a surge in the number of federal and state-based transparency websites. One of the newest ones to enter the fray is the Cato Institute’s DownsizingGovernment.org, whose mission is to help the public “understand where federal funds are being spent and how to reform each (federal) government department.”

These tools alone, however, are not enough to change the public’s perception. It will take time and principled leadership.

– James Quintero