Americans' trust in institutions, ranked (16 items)

Bethan Owen

July 7, 2014

How important is it to trust the government? Which public institutions have succeeded in securing that trust, and which have failed to capture the loyalty of the American people?

A recent Gallup poll asked Americans how much they trusted various institutions, such as public school systems and government entities, and compared the data to responses from previous years.

Here are the results, ranked from the least trusted to the most.

1 of 16. U.S. Congress

How much confidence do participants have in this institution?

A great deal: 4 percent
Quite a lot: 3 percent

Trust in congress has reached new lows recently, and the Wall Street Journal claims it's at least partially due to Americans' perceptions of politicians.

"These days many incumbent politicians game the system, raising and spending huge sums to ensure their own reelection and creating rules that seriously disadvantage challengers–without doing much more than posturing once they gain the offices they fight so hard to keep," the Journal's Linda Killian wrote.

"Americans know this–and that’s why so few of them trust Congress."

2 of 16. Television news

How much confidence do participants have in this institution?

A great deal: 10 percent
Quite a lot: 8 percent

"Increasingly for the last five to 10 years, media has become more fragmented," according to Democratic consultant Karen Finney, interviewed by Politico. According to Finney, the vast amounts of news sources available to people have changed how they view traditional news TV.

"It may not be about that people just don’t trust the evening news, it’s that they now can go get the news they want, wherever they want it, from whatever source they want, when they want it," Finney said. "I think people then self-select for the information that reinforces what they believe."

3 of 16. News on the internet

How much confidence do participants have in this institution?

A great deal: 8 percent
Quite a lot: 11 percent

News outlets have politicized audiences, according to Gallup. Conservatives have more trust in TV news, with 21 percent of self-proclaimed conservatives trusting TV news and only 15 percent of liberals feeling the same way.

On the other end of the spectrum, 22 percent of liberals reported trusting online news, and 17 percent of their conservative counterparts said the same.

4 of 16. Big business

How much confidence do participants have in this institution?

A great deal: 9 percent
Quite a lot: 12 percent

Big business is held in suspicion by both parties but particularly conservatives, according to the American Thinker. Writer Bruce Walker believes that the conservative distrust of big business has played a large role in their low trustworthiness.

"Most conservatives have grown to see giant corporations as fawning supplicants for adulation by the left," Walker wrote. "While conservatives certainly support businesses growing wealthy in the free market, it is small business that conservatives love and trust."

5 of 16. Organized labor

How much confidence do participants have in this institution?

A great deal: 10 percent
Quite a lot: 12 percent

Unions, especially teacher's unions, are under attack by the left and the right, according to Salon.

Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige called teachers' unions "terrorist organizations," wrote Jeff Bryant of Salon. While Paige was pressured to resign after his comments and eventually did so, "The campaign against public school teachers and their unions has evolved from casting insults to inflicting real injury," Bryant wrote, citing the case Vergara v. California. The case determined that teachers' unions were unconstitutional and harmed underprivileged kids.

Meanwhile, where liberals might normally be the champions of unions, "when education policy is the matter at hand, liberals no longer know what they’re talking about," Bryant wrote, and they are no longer doing enough to protect these unions.

1. Itsjstmeagain
Merritt Island, Fl,
July 7, 2014

The Congress is #16 of 16, at the bottom. The Office of the President is #7. Why has the Congress not taken a hint that their overall performance is exceptionally poor and need to get back to work?

2. Swiss
Price, Utah,
July 7, 2014

I want to know what people think of each of the two branches of the Congress? Congress as a whole tells us nothing. Do they distrust the House of Representatives or distrust the Senate? Boehner's boys or Harry's House of Lords who do they find more trust worthy?

While were at it why not poll to see how much faith the polled have in not the President, but the Executive Branch? Surely they could split it out Department of Justice , Health and Human Services (PPACA), Treasury (IRS), Interior (BLM), Agriculture (USFS,SNAP), etc.

3. JWB
Kaysville, UT,
July 7, 2014

The military has had trust in the past but there is still a lot of politics with the generals and colonels who want to be generals. It is sad they get caught up in the lack of trust factor, as in future years their number 1 could slide down the hill, also. Integrity is part of their creed but not necessarily at the top. Younger officers and enlisted need to keep their integrity through their service and ranks.

What is more important, moving up or Integrity? Can you have both in the military today? I believe Congress has slipped because of the lack of the men and women in the military going into elected Congress and Senatorial offices. When those men and women took on political life while in the Reserve, Guard or after military retirement, the Congress appeared to have more vision because they saw the big picture. Now, elected offices are for people with money and not necessarily character.

This is the 50th year of the judges who should have integrity, also. Our final link to integrity suffers from politics, also, not from the reading of the law.

4. Shimlau
July 7, 2014

Another point that the article brought out is that the plunge in the rating of the office of the president has been during Obama's watch. maybe the fact that he won't compromise and doesn't seem to care is the problem. Also, if he doesn't care about compromise, then how can congress get anything done? especially if the president says 'my way or the highway'.

5. Brer Rabbit
Spanish Fork, UT,
July 7, 2014

The low position of Congress may not really be that low, if the survey used a different method. Since nearly all of them will be re-elected the satisfaction level should be something above 50 percent. Since there are 535 members perhaps a better method would be to survey each member in their own district or state add up the satisfaction percent and divide by 535.

The blame here would seem to be as much on the citizens that vote for them and the citizens that are too apathetic to get involved. The excuse that there is nothing that can be done about it is meaningless and defeatist, just the way our rulers like it. Big changes, such as ending slavery, and rebelling against England came about because people refused to be defeated, and weren't overcome with apathy.