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New Poll Reveals Collapsing Levels of Confidence in U.S. Institutions

July 7, 2022

A Gallup poll released Tuesday revealed that Americans’ confidence in major U.S. institutions is steadily declining.

Since 1973, Gallup has been measuring the public’s confidence in multiple institutions, including the three branches of government, small businesses, and the military, among others. Survey results show that Americans are trusting systems of power less each year. In 1979, the average confidence level across all institutions was 48%. This year, the confidence level is at 27% — an all-time low. 

Quena Gonzalez, senior director of government affairs at Family Research Council, was not surprised by the drop. “The decline across the board is probably for multiple reasons, but some of it no doubt stems from American’s declining trust in public officials, who in early 2020 waffled on TV on whether masks were unnecessary, good for you, or vital to stopping the pandemic,” he told The Washington Stand.

The institution with the largest decline in confidence is the presidency with a 15-point drop. In June 2021, those surveyed reported a 38% confidence in President Joe Biden. This year, that percentage plummeted to 23%, following the trend of the president’s falling approval rating

“Watching President Biden struggle with the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, bumbling on the world stage, and soaring inflation at home, even Democrats are losing faith in the institution of the presidency,” Gonzalez noted. 

He added that this is not the kind of polling Democrat officials want to see heading into this fall’s mid-term congressional elections, which are typically already challenging for the party in the White House.

The Supreme Court was the next institution with a significant decline in confidence, which dropped from 36% to 25%. This 11-point drop can be attributed to the court’s recent controversial rulings on abortion and gun laws. 

“Republican confidence in the court has risen slightly this year, but it cratered by 18 points among Democrats,” said Gonzalez. “Keep in mind that leading Democrats in Washington — President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have been openly threatening to ‘pack’ the court, adding seats because they didn’t like the textualist justices that President Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked to get appointed.”

While small businesses are at the top of the list with a 68% confidence level, Congress ranks lowest with 7%. 

Gonzalez, who worked as a Capitol Hill staffer on human rights for nearly a decade, shared that the low rankings do not surprise him.

“Congress, which nine years ago polled as less popular than head lice, colonoscopies, and Nickelback, has long suffered low confidence numbers,” he observed. “But the partisan breakdown of the current numbers tell us a lot: While Congress lost the confidence of one percent among Republicans (down to five percent) and five percent among Independents (down to seven percent), it lost seven percent of its support among Democrats. When more than four in 10 people in your political base who used to trust you lose confidence in your leadership of Congress, well, it may be time for the party to recalibrate its liberal extremism.”

The church and organized religion have also suffered a loss of confidence across the board. Gonzalez emphasized this drop occurred predominantly among Independents. 

Furthermore, Americans also have less confidence in banks (12% percent decline), the police (11%), and the military (10%) compared to last year. 

“A lot of this dynamic is part of a longer-term trend; thinkers like Yuval Levin have writtenfor years about the general decline in confidence in American institutions over the past half-century or more,” said Gonzalez. “But some of it can be laid specifically at the feet of partisan Democrats who have attacked institutions they don’t like.”

“Newspapers, the criminal justice system, big business, and TV news, along with Congress, round out the ‘bottom five’ of institutions that most lack Americans’ trust, which is why new publications — like The Washington Stand — are filling the space once occupied by Walter Cronkite,” Gonzalez concluded.

Deborah Laker serves as a staff writer at The Washington Stand.