About 70 percent of respondents said they did not feel they could count on political or business leaders, the education system or the social welfare network, the study for the Bertelsmann Foundation indicated.
Nearly one in two said they questioned representative democracy as a political system.
"Even the social market economy is far from being seen as positively as it once was," opinion researcher Peter Kruse, who carried out the study, said of Germany's system of free markets with a strong social safety net.
Costly government packages to rescue crisis-hit banks and shore up the auto industry with subsidies for trading in heavily polluting cars for newer cleaner models were seen as inadequate to revive the slumping economy.
And the poll found an €8.5 billion ($12.2 billion) tax relief package passed by parliament this month had unsettled Germans at a time of record public debt.
Germans hoped to see more investment in easing the burden on families, education and renewable energy.
A separate poll, however, found citizens of Europe's biggest economy more optimistic about their personal finances.
Thirty-seven percent of Germans said they expected to be better off in 2010 than this year, the study by the Emnid Institute for opinion research published in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed.
A slightly higher share, 41 percent, said they expected no change while about 20 percent said they were pessimistic about their purchasing power in the new year.