skip to main content

Americans' Confidence in Institutions Edges Up

Americans' Confidence in Institutions Edges Up

Story Highlights

  • Average confidence in 14 major institutions at 35%, up from 32%
  • Republicans account for most of the increase in confidence this year
  • Military and small business get most confidence; Congress least

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' confidence in the nation's major institutions has edged up in 2017, after registering historical lows over the past three years. Newspapers, public schools and organized labor, in particular, have improved in public esteem. The average percentage of Americans expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in 14 institutions is at 35%, up from 31% in 2014 and 32% in 2015 and 2016.

line graph

With this year's uptick, Americans' confidence in key U.S. institutions is close to the historical average for the 14 institutions Gallup has asked about since 1993 (37%). Confidence in institutions was generally higher prior to 2007 than in the years since, and current levels are also well below the high point of the 43% confidence registered in 2001, 2003 and 2004.

Confidence Up Most in Newspapers, Public Schools and Organized Labor

This year's June 7-11 update shows that confidence is nominally higher in 10 of the 14 specific institutions included in the long-term average, although just three of the changes are statistically significant: the rise in confidence in newspapers (up seven percentage points), public schools (six points) and organized labor (five points).

In addition to the 14 institutions in Gallup's long-term trend, this year's measure included small business, added to the list in 2007, and confidence in internet news, asked about only two times previously.

Confidence in Institutions: 2016 and 2017
June 2016 June 2017 Change: 2016 to 2017
% % pct. pts.
Newspapers 20 27 7
Public schools 30 36 6
Banks 27 32 5
Organized labor 23 28 5
U.S. Supreme Court 36 40 4
Criminal justice system 23 27 4
Congress 9 12 3
Television news 21 24 3
Big business 18 21 3
Small business 68 70 2
Police 56 57 1
Church or organized religion 41 41 0
Military 73 72 -1
Medical system 39 37 -2
Presidency 36 32 -4
News on the internet n/a 16 n/a
Gallup

Overall, U.S. adults say they have the most confidence in the military, as has typically been the case since the mid-1980s. Americans have almost as much confidence in small business as they do in the military. 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%.

At the other end of the spectrum, two institutions have confidence ratings below 20% -- Congress, last on the list with a confidence rating of 12%, and news on the internet, at 16%. Forthcoming Gallup.com stories will discuss the trends in confidence on several of these institutions in more detail.

Republicans' and Democrats' Confidence in Institutions Shift This Year

The overall uptick in confidence this year is primarily the result of increased confidence among Republicans, paralleling the increased GOP optimism noted in economic confidence and satisfaction with the way things are going in the nation.

Republican and Republican-leaning independents' average confidence in the 14 major institutions edged up to 37% from 30% last year. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, confronted with a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress, have roughly the same confidence in the 14 institutions as last year -- 33% compared with 34%.

Republicans and Democrats essentially flipped their confidence ratings of the presidency this year. Republicans' confidence surged 46 points compared with 2016, while Democrats' confidence fell by 49 points. Last year, with a Democrat in the White House, Democrats were much more confident in the presidency than were Republicans. This year, Republicans' confidence in the presidency is 50 points higher than that of Democrats.

Confidence in Institutions by Party: 2016 and 2017
% Great deal or quite a lot of confidence
June 2016 June 2017 Change: 2016 to 2017
% % pct. pts.
MILITARY
Republicans/leaners 83 82 -1
Democrats/leaners 65 64 -1
SMALL BUSINESS
Republicans/leaners 71 73 2
Democrats/leaners 68 67 -1
POLICE
Republicans/leaners 68 73 5
Democrats/leaners 48 45 -3
CHURCH OR ORGANIZED RELIGION
Republicans/leaners 51 52 1
Democrats/leaners 31 34 3
U.S. SUPREME COURT
Republicans/leaners 29 40 11
Democrats/leaners 43 43 0
MEDICAL SYSTEM
Republicans/leaners 36 33 -3
Democrats/leaners 41 40 -1
PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Republicans/leaners 21 30 9
Democrats/leaners 36 41 5
PRESIDENCY
Republicans/leaners 14 60 46
Democrats/leaners 59 10 -49
BANKS
Republicans/leaners 28 36 8
Democrats/leaners 25 30 5
ORGANIZED LABOR
Republicans/leaners 15 17 2
Democrats/leaners 30 37 7
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Republicans/leaners 25 29 4
Democrats/leaners 22 27 5
NEWSPAPERS
Republicans/leaners 15 12 -3
Democrats/leaners 25 41 16
TELEVISION NEWS
Republicans/leaners 14 14 0
Democrats/leaners 27 31 4
BIG BUSINESS
Republicans/leaners 22 28 6
Democrats/leaners 15 14 -1
INTERNET NEWS
Republicans/leaners n/a 14 n/a
Democrats/leaners n/a 16 n/a
CONGRESS
Republicans/leaners 6 14 8
Democrats/leaners 11 11 0
Gallup, June 7-11, 2017

A similar pattern is seen for the U.S. Supreme Court. Republicans' confidence in the Supreme Court jumped 11 points this year, after Donald Trump's appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia, while Democrats' confidence stayed exactly the same.

Perhaps in reaction to Trump's vociferous criticism of the media, Democrats this year express significantly higher levels of confidence in newspapers than they did last year, while Republicans' confidence stayed roughly the same -- and much lower than Democrats.

Bottom Line

Several important findings emerge from Gallup's annual update of Americans' confidence in the nation's major institutions this year.

First, 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.

Second, despite this increased confidence, Americans are still skeptical of most of the major institutions that make up U.S. society. Major institutions have an average 35% "great deal/quite a lot" confidence rating overall, and only three institutions garner a confidence rating above 50%. Major institutions such as big business, the criminal justice system and banks get high confidence ratings from less than one-third of the public.

Finally, the dismal level of public confidence in Congress -- with 12% of Americans saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the nation's legislative body and 44% saying they have very little confidence -- 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.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/212840/americans-confidence-institutions-edges.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030