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Military on Top, HMOs Last in Public Confidence Poll

Military on Top, HMOs Last in Public Confidence Poll

Religion and police also receive high ratings

by Leslie McAneny


PRINCETON NJ -- The Gallup Poll's annual rating of Americans' confidence in the country's major institutions shows that the public has more confidence in the military than in any other institution tested, followed by organized religion, and the police. At the other end of the spectrum, HMOs suffer from the lowest level of public confidence of any of the 17 institutions included in the June 25-27 survey. Additionally, Americans have significantly more confidence in the presidency and the U.S. Supreme Court than they do in the third branch of government, the Congress, and the computer industry generates more confidence from Americans than does big business in general.

This year, the Gallup Poll added three institutions that did not exist when the initial Confidence in Institutions poll first appeared in 1973. On the list of 17 institutions (ranked by combining the responses of those expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence), one of the three new entries -- the computer industry -- fares very well, debuting in fourth place. The second new entry, "news on the Internet," finishes next-to-last, behind both television news and newspapers, but remains an unknown quantity to nearly one in five Americans. The third institution rated for the first time this year, health maintenance organizations (better known as HMOs), makes a disastrous debut. No doubt reflecting the unrelentingly bad press they have lately received, HMOs find not only a mere 17% of the public rating them worthy of "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence, but close to half of all Americans, 46%, expressing "very little" or no confidence whatever in these modern purveyors of health care.

Meanwhile, the military, enjoying both a scandal-free year and a strong performance in Yugoslavia, receives high confidence marks from nearly seven in ten Americans (68%), finishing comfortably ahead of "the church or organized religion," in second place at 58%. Other highly rated institutions include the police (57%), the presidency (49%), and the U.S. Supreme Court (49%). (The public's assessment of the presidency did not change as a result of the presidential scandal and resulting impeachment last year.) The third branch of government, the Congress, continues to have low ratings, with only a 26% confidence rating and a #14 rank.

Other institutions with low levels of public confidence include the criminal justice system (23%) and organized labor (28%).

The middle tier of rated institutions features banks, with a 43% confidence level, "the medical system" (40%), public schools (36%), television news (34%), newspapers (33%) and big business (30%).

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,016 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 25-27, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

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, ... [ROTATE A-N, THEN ROTATE O-Q]

  A great deal Quite a lot Some Very little NONE (vol.) No opinion
a. The church or organized religion 32% 26% 28% 12% 1% 1%
b. The military 34 34 26 6 * *
c. The U.S. Supreme Court 20 29 35 13 1 2
d. Banks 16 27 40 15 1 1
e. Public schools 14 22 37 24 2 1
f. Newspapers 12 21 44 21 1 1
g. Congress 9 17 51 21 1 1
h. Television news 14 20 41 24 1 *
i. Organized labor 13 15 44 24 2 2
j. The presidency 23 26 30 19 1 1
k. The police 24 33 33 10 * 0
l. The medical system 17 23 36 22 1 1
m. The criminal justice system 8 15 40 34 3 *
n. Big business 11 19 44 24 1 1
o. News on the Internet 8 13 35 22 3 19
p. The computer industry 20 30 34 10 1 5
q. Health maintenance organizations, also known as HMOs 8 9 34 42 4 3

* less than 0.5%
(vol.) volunteered response

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