Gallup’s latest measure of confidence in American institutions shows how Americans experience and interpret the same circumstances differently. The survey resulted in the lowest overall institutional confidence recorded in the 14 institutions measured consistently since 1979. The average of U.S. adults expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the 14 major institutions is 27%, three points below the previous record low in 2014.
A few disconnects appear based primarily on political affiliation, which is not surprising since political differences have invaded everything from professional sports to Thanksgiving dinner in recent years. For example, confidence in the military declined 10 points between 2021 and 2022 among Republicans. It fell from 81% to 71% in the period following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the vaccine mandate from the Department of Defense, and the disclosure of CRT-related training from West Point to the highest ranks of leadership.
Confidence in the military among Republicans is still higher than among independents, which declined from 66% to 58%. Democrats display the lowest confidence level but are the only group to report an increase over the past year from 63% to 67%. During the same period, the highest-ranking military officers committed to rooting out “white supremacy,” reversed the ban on transgender enlistments, and vowed to better understand “white rage.” The shift toward identity politics may have boosted confidence on the Left.
The other institution where confidence moved along ideological lines is the Supreme Court. Republicans’ confidence increased three points from 36% to 39%. Gallup conducted the survey between June 1-20, 2022, while the Dobbs leak did not occur until June 24, indicating that the confidence of GOP voters may be related to a few pandemic rulings, the reversal of President Biden’s vaccine mandate for many employees, and the court’s composition.
A third, and odd, disconnect concerns television news. Confidence among Republicans went up two points from 6% to 8%. This slight increase may reflect the availability of new options such as OANN. Among independents, it declined five points from 13% to 8%, and it fell six points from 26% to 20% among Democrats. Confidence in newspapers is dismal and declining across the board. Republican confidence is in the single digits, while independents dropped seven points to 12%, and only 35% of Democrats expressed confidence.
Confidence in most institutions declined among Americans of all political affiliations. The biggest hit across the board is Americans’ confidence in the presidency. The smallest year-over-year decline is among Republicans, who fell from 12% to 2%. Democrats who were quite confident in the presidency in 2021 at 69% dropped to a bare majority at 51%; independents fell 13 points to 18%.
Other significant declines include an 11-point drop in the confidence Republicans have in police officers along with a corresponding eight-point decline among independents. Since the Defund the Police movement came from the Left, it is not surprising that trust was already low among Democrats at 30% and has declined just two points year over year. A similar trend occurred in Americans’ confidence in the criminal justice system. Republicans and independents fell seven points each, to 10% and 16%, while Democrats only lost one point to land at 16%.
Likewise, Republicans’ and independents’ confidence in the church and organized religion fell six and 10 points, respectively, to 46% and 25%. Democrats only fell one point from 27% to 26%. The willingness of churches to close for extended periods during the pandemic and the embrace of CRT and the LBGTQ agenda by several denominations may be behind the declines that have occurred since last summer.
Another significant decline among Republicans was confidence in banks, which fell 12 points, from 35% to 23%. The GOP now has the lowest confidence in banks among the three political affiliations measured, a change from having the highest confidence. This is possibly related to the large banks embracing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. It may also be related to the Federal Reserve’s complete inability to control inflation.
There is not a single institution among the 16 that the survey measured in which Americans expressed an overall increase in confidence. Americans have the highest average confidence in small businesses, while confidence in organized labor remained flat at 28%. Americans expressed the lowest overall confidence in Congress, which fell to the single digits at 7%. The three branches of government are all on the ropes. The Supreme Court and the presidency experienced the most significant overall drops at -11% and -15% respectively.
In many cases, these organizations would need to do one thing, such as embracing ESGs, to please the Left and the exact opposite to regain confidence from the political Right. In other cases, like the criminal justice system, the institution would have to become more even-handed and not behave in politically motivated ways to increase confidence among Republicans. But Democrats would be up in arms if the DOJ prosecuted Black Lives Matter rioters with the same intensity as they do the January 6 defendants.
In a nation that seems more divided by the day, it is not clear how these institutions will recover any level of overall confidence from the American public.