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Military Again Tops "Confidence in Institutions" List

Military Again Tops "Confidence in Institutions" List

Ratings of the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court are all down

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's 2005 reading of public confidence in major institutions operating in U.S. society finds little change, compared with a year ago, in Americans' ratings at the top of the list. These include the military, ranked No. 1, as well as the police, organized religion, and banks.

However, several institutions that typically appear toward the bottom of this list -- organized labor, the criminal justice system, and Congress -- have experienced declines in public confidence since last year. Confidence in the presidency, which ranks No. 5 on this year's list, and confidence in the Supreme Court, ranked No. 7, also declined.

Gallup's annual measure of public confidence in institutions is based on the question, "Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one -- a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?" ("None" is allowed as a volunteered response.) The rank order of institutions is based on the combined "a great deal" plus "quite a lot" figures.

The Basic Ranking

Only 3 U.S. institutions out of the 15 included in the May 23-26 poll command a high degree of confidence from at least half of Americans: the military, the police, and the church or organized religion. (In previous years, banks, the presidency, the Supreme Court, newspapers, and public schools have each crossed the 50% threshold.) The 74% rating given to the military continues to make it the institution engendering the most confidence of any of those tested -- and by a healthy margin.

Several organizations are rated highly by between 40% and 50% of Americans. These are banks, the presidency, the medical system, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Close to 4 in 10 Americans (37%) say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the public schools.

Roughly one in four have high confidence in television news, newspapers, the criminal justice system, organized labor, Congress, and big business.

Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are rated highly by only 17% of Americans.

Trends Are Down

There are no major shifts in public confidence this year -- at least none on par with the 15-point decline in confidence in organized religion that occurred between 2001 and 2002 over the Catholic church's sexual abuse scandal, or the 13-point increase in confidence in the military that occurred in the same period (following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks).

The only significant changes recorded this year are all declines in confidence. These occur in relation to five institutions, and range from five to eight percentage points.

May 2004

May 2005

Change

%

%

pct. pts.

The presidency

52

44

-8

The criminal justice system

34

26

-8

Congress

30

22

-8

Organized labor

31

24

-7

The U.S. Supreme Court

46

41

-5

Confidence in the presidency ratings are generally linked with job approval ratings of the sitting president. However, the eight-point decline in confidence in the presidency this year is not reflected in President Bush's approval rating spanning the same period. Bush's approval rating today is 48%, versus 47% in May 2004. Whatever the reason, the decline in confidence in the presidency is most pronounced among Democrats nationally, although Republicans are also slightly less positive on this measure than they were a year ago.

Confidence in the Presidency
by partisanship
(% Great deal/Quite a lot of confidence)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

May 2004

85

40

33

May 2005

79

35

18

Change

-6 pct. pts.

-5 pct. pts

-15 pct. pts.

The eight-point overall decline in confidence in Congress is seen to a similar degree among Republicans (-7 points) and Democrats (-12 points). The exact cause for this bipartisan decline is unclear, although Congress has been the source of much controversy this year, including its involvement in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube case, partisan battles over federal court nominees, and ethical clouds over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Whatever the cause, the 22% confidence rating for Congress today is the lowest it has been in eight years.

Confidence in Congress
by partisanship
(% Great deal/Quite a lot of confidence)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

May 2004

35

22

31

May 2005

28

20

19

Change

-7 pct. pts.

-2 pct. pts.

-12 pct. pts.

Similarly, the five-point decline seen in confidence in the Supreme Court occurred about equally among Republicans and Democrats.

Confidence in the Supreme Court
by partisanship
(% Great deal/Quite a lot of confidence)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

May 2004

53

41

47

May 2005

47

36

42

Change

-6 pct. pts.

-5 pct. pts.

-5 pct. pts.

Gallup also recorded an eight-point decline in confidence in the criminal justice system (now 26%, down from 34%), and a seven-point decline in confidence in organized labor (now 24%, down from 31%). The drop in confidence in the criminal justice system is about even by party.

Confidence in the Criminal Justice System
by partisanship
(% Great deal/Quite a lot of confidence)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

May 2004

39

30

34

May 2005

31

19

28

Change

-8 pct. pts.

-11 pct. pts.

-6 pct. pts.

The drop in confidence in organized labor is more pronounced among Democrats than among Republicans.

Confidence in Organized Labor
by partisanship
(% Great deal/Quite a lot of confidence)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

May 2004

22

30

43

May 2005

19

22

34

Change

-3 pct. pts.

-8 pct. pts.

-9 pct. pts.

Other Notables

  • The last five years have been bad for journalism. Since 2000, trust in television news has declined from 36% to 28%, and trust in newspapers has declined from 37% to 28%. The current ratings represent the lowest trust levels for both of these institutions, although trust in newspapers has been as low as 29% (in 1994).


  • Trust in organized religion remains where it was last year, at 53%. This represents a partial recovery from 2002, when the Catholic church's sexual abuse scandal drove this confidence level down to 45%, but it is still below the 56% to 60% level maintained before the scandal.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 23-26, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

2-1. Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one -- a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little? First, … Next, [RANDOM ORDER]

2005 May 23-26
(sorted by "Great deal/Quite a lot")

Great
deal

Quite
a lot

Some

Very
little

NONE (vol.)

No
opinion

Great deal/ Quite
a lot

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

42

32

18

7

1

*

74

The police

28

35

29

7

1

--

63

The church or organized religion

31

22

28

16

2

1

53

Banks

22

27

39

11

1

*

49

The presidency

21

23

27

25

3

1

44

The medical system

19

23

33

23

1

1

42

The U.S. Supreme Court

16

25

38

18

1

2

41

The public schools

16

21

39

22

1

1

37

Television news

12

16

45

24

2

1

28

Newspapers

11

17

46

24

1

1

28

The Criminal justice system

9

17

45

26

2

1

26

Organized labor

12

12

47

23

2

4

24

Congress

8

14

51

25

1

1

22

Big business

8

14

45

29

2

2

22

Health Maintenance Organizations, HMOs

7

10

43

35

2

3

17

(vol.) Volunteered response

* Less than 0.5%

TRENDS (% "a great deal" + % "quite a lot")

The military

The police

The
church/
organized
religion

Banks

The presidency

%

%

%

%

%

2005 May

74

63

53

49

44

2004 May

75

64

53

53

52

2003 Jun

82

61

50

50

55

2002 Jun

79

59

45

47

58

2001 Jun

66

57

60

44

48

2000 Jun

64

54

56

46

42

1999 Jun

68

57

58

43

49

1998 Jun

64

58

59

40

53

1997 Jul

60

59

56

41

49

1996 May

66

60

57

44

39

1995 Apr

64

58

57

43

45

1994 Mar

64

54

54

35

38

1993 Mar

68

52

53

37

43

1991 Oct

69

--

56

30

50

1991 Mar

85

--

59

32

72

1990 Aug

68

--

56

36

--

1989 Sep

63

--

52

42

--

1988 Sep

68

--

59

49

--

1987 Jul

61

--

61

51

--

1986 Jul

63

--

57

49

--

1985 May

61

--

66

51

--

1984 Oct

58

--

64

51

--

1983 Aug

53

--

62

51

--

1981 Nov

50

--

64

46

--

1979 Apr

54

--

65

60

--

1977 Jan

57

--

64

--

--

1975 May

58

--

68

--

--

1973 May

--

--

66

--

--

The
medical
system

The U.S.
Supreme
Court

The
public
schools

Television
news

Newspapers

%

%

%

%

%

2005 May

42

41

37

28

28

2004 May

44

46

41

30

30

2003 Jun

44

47

40

35

33

2002 Jun

38

50

38

35

35

2001 Jun

40

50

38

34

36

2000 Jun

40

47

37

36

37

1999 Jun

40

49

36

34

33

1998 Jun

40

50

37

34

33

1997 Jul

38

50

40

34

35

1996 May

42

45

38

36

32

1995 Apr

41

44

40

33

30

1994 Mar

36

42

34

35

29

1993 Mar

34

44

39

46

31

1991 Oct

--

39

35

--

32

1991 Mar

--

48

44

--

32

1990 Aug

--

47

45

--

39

1989 Sep

--

46

43

--

--

1988 Sep

--

56

49

--

36

1987 Jul

--

52

50

--

31

1986 Jul

--

54

49

--

37

1985 May

--

56

48

--

35

1984 Oct

--

51

47

--

34

1983 Aug

--

42

39

--

38

1981 Nov

--

46

42

--

35

1979 Apr

--

45

53

--

51

1977 Jan

--

46

54

--

--

1975 May

--

49

--

--

--

1973 May

--

44

58

--

39

The
criminal
justice
system

Organized
labor

Congress

Big
business

Health
mainten-
ance
organi-
zations

%

%

%

%

%

2005 May

26

24

22

22

17

2004 May

34

31

30

24

18

2003 Jun

29

28

29

22

17

2002 Jun

27

26

29

20

13

2001 Jun

--

26

26

28

15

2000 Jun

24

25

24

29

16

1999 Jun

23

28

26

30

17

1998 Jun

24

26

28

30

--

1997 Jul

19

23

22

28

--

1996 May

19

25

20

24

--

1995 Apr

20

26

21

21

--

1994 Mar

15

26

18

26

--

1993 Mar

17

26

18

22

--

1991 Oct

--

22

18

22

--

1991 Mar

--

25

30

26

--

1990 Aug

--

27

24

25

--

1989 Sep

--

--

32

--

--

1988 Sep

--

26

35

25

--

1987 Jul

--

26

--

--

--

1986 Jul

--

29

41

28

--

1985 May

--

28

39

31

--

1984 Oct

--

30

29

29

--

1983 Aug

--

26

28

28

--

1981 Nov

--

28

29

20

--

1979 Apr

--

36

34

32

--

1977 Jan

--

39

40

33

--

1975 May

--

38

40

34

--

1973 May

--

30

42

26

--

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