Now that the July 4th fireworks have flamed out, the pollsters at Gallup are providing some details about how Americans’ confidence in our major institutions has fizzled over the past year.
Of the 16 institutions Gallup asked about — ranging from Congress to the Supreme Court, public schools to the presidency, the medical system to the news media — 11 saw Americans say they are much less confident than they were a year ago.
All three branches of the federal government dropped to new lows in this year’s poll.
The presidency saw the most precipitous drop, 15 percentage points, which Gallup says matches the 15-point plunge in President Joe Biden’s approval rating since June 2021. Just 23% of those surveyed say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the presidency.
The Supreme Court saw the second largest decline, a drop of 11 percentage points to 25% — and that was as of late June, before the court formally announced its ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and issued a controversial decision on gun laws.
Confidence in Congress fell by 5 percentage points — a smaller drop, yes, but Congress was already at the bottom of the list, at 12% confidence last year, yet managed to fall to 7% this year.
Small business (68%) and the military (64%) are the only institutions to see a majority of Americans express confidence in them. Organized labor is the only institution that didn’t see a decline in confidence from last year.
“Five other institutions are at their lowest points in at least three decades of measurement,” Gallup reports, “including the church or organized religion (31%), newspapers (16%), the criminal justice system (14%), big business (14%) and the police.”
The Gallup readings are in line with those from the latest Monmouth University poll, which finds that just 10% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 88% say it is on the wrong track — the lowest such reading dating back to 2013. And 42% of Americans say they are struggling to maintain their financial position, the highest such reading since Monmouth started asking the question five years ago.
That poll also finds that Americans see the federal government as providing little help. “A majority of 57% say that the actions of the federal government over the past six months have hurt their family when it comes to their most important concern,” Monmouth reports, noting that this is the first time a majority has said that federal government has hurt them where it matters most. “The results also indicate little optimism about the future – just 23% expect that future government actions over the next few years will help improve their family’s top concern while 45% say Washington will hurt them. One year ago, that response was basically flipped (40% expected to be helped and 34% expected to be hurt).”
The bottom line: “Confidence in institutions is unlikely to improve until the economy gets better,” Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones writes, “but it is unclear if confidence will ever get back to the levels Gallup measured in decades past, even with an improved economy.”