Confidence in U.S. institutions inches up, recent survey says

Confidence in U.S. institutions inches up, recent survey says

By Maggie Walsh
The Alabama Baptist

A recent Gallup survey has us here at The Alabama Baptist jumping for joy (or maybe just exchanging enthusiastic high fives).

According to a study released June 26, Americans’ confidence in 16 key U.S. institutions is on the rise, including a significant rise in confidence in newspapers. From June 2016 to June 2017, Americans’ confidence in newspapers jumped 7 percent and now sits at 27 percent.

Other statistically significant jumps in confidence were reported in public schools (6 percent) and organized labor (5 percent).

Overall, Americans’ confidence in the nation’s major institutions has edged up this year after registering historical lows over the past three years, Gallup reported.

The major institutions included in the survey were newspapers, public schools, banks, organized labor, the U.S. Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, Congress, television news, big business, small business, the police, the church or organized religion, the military, our medical system, the presidency and news on the internet. This year was the first for the small business and news on the internet categories.

Nearing historical average

“The average percentage of Americans expressing ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the 14 (traditionally polled) institutions is at 35 percent, up from 31 percent in 2014 and 32 percent in 2015 and 2016,” Gallup reported.
With this year’s uptick, the report read, Americans’ confidence in key U.S. institutions is close to the historical average for the 14 institutions Gallup has asked about since 1993 (37 percent). The high point for public esteem was 43 percent, which held steady from 2001 to 2004.

Confidence in church or organized religion saw no change from 2016, remaining at 41 percent.

Overall, U.S. adults have the most confidence in the military (72 percent) and small business (70 percent).

“Confidence levels drop off substantially after these two, with only one other institution ­— the police — getting a combined ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence rating over 50 percent,” the report noted.

Both ends of the spectrum

Conversely, two institutions have confidence ratings below 20 percent — Congress (12 percent) and news on the internet (16 percent).

Gallup contributed the upward edge in overall confidence to Republicans, who seem to be “paralleling the increased GOP optimism [noted in previous studies] with the way things are going in the nation.”

Those with Republican leanings increased their overall confidence levels from 30 percent in 2016 to 37 percent this year, whereas Democrats have roughly the same level of overall confidence (34 percent) in the polled institutions.

“The uptick in Republicans’ average confidence resulting from the election of President Trump was not offset by a decrease in confidence among Democrats, leaving the population, as a whole, more confident than in previous years,” Gallup reported.

“Despite this increased (overall) confidence, Americans are still skeptical of most of the major institutions that make up U.S. society,” the report read. “The dismal level of public confidence in Congress … highlights what Americans themselves say is the nation’s most important problem: a dysfunctional government that has lost much of its legitimacy in the eyes of the people it serves.”